Last Reviewed and Updated on March 7, 2023
The colossal size of giant African snails has made these snails a popular terrarium pet, but they aren’t allowed everywhere. On the other hand, they are also considered a major pest in many parts of the world, as they can cause extensive damage to crops and gardens. Read on and learn some fascinating facts about giant African snails, from their impressive size to how they can damage your home.
Giant African snail is a common name for three different species of unusually large land snails. The three species are:
- Achatina achatina (agate snail or Ghana tiger snail)
- Lissachatina fulica
- Archachatina marginata (giant West African snail or banana rasp snail )
These species of large land snails are native to Africa but have been introduced to many other parts of the world, including Asia, the Pacific, and the Americas.
The African Giant Snail can grow quite large and has a distinctive conical shell with a pointed top. The color of the shell is typically light brown, with lighter and darker lines. Its body is typically a dark brown or tan color with a mucus-covered foot and two pairs of tentacles (one pair with eyes) that it uses to sense its environment.
These snails are considered herbivores and primarily feed on a variety of plants, including leaves, fruits, and flowers. In areas where they have been introduced, they have been known to cause damage to crops and gardens.
Interesting Facts About Giant African Snails
Ready for some fun facts about giant African snails? Read on!
Also read: 100 weirdest facts about animals
1. African giant snails are the largest land snails in the world
This group of snail species includes the largest land snails in the world. Adult snails can be larger than an average human palm, easily reaching 7.9 inches / 20 cm in length or more.
Fun fact: these may be the largest living land snail but are still quite a bit smaller than the largest living snail in the world, the Australian trumpet, a species of sea snail that can measure up to about 36 inches / 91 cm.
2. Achatina achatina holds the record for the largest land snail
Wondering what the largest lain snail ever measured is? The title and the Guinness world record go to Gee Geronimo, an Achatina achatina African giant snail, which measured 15.5 inches / 39.3 cm from snout to tail.
3. They are one of the top invasive species in the world
Not exactly a fancy title to hold. African giant snails are considered one of the most invasive species in the world and are destructive invasive pests outside their natural range. They are major agricultural pests and can cause extensive damage to crops.
4. They are very adaptable to different habitats
African giant snails are very adaptable to different habitats. They can be found in rainforests, deserts, and even urban areas. They love temperatures that are similar to temperatures in their natural range but can survive if exposed to temperatures as low as 39 degrees Fahrenheit / 4 degrees Celsius (study: Effect of Temperature and Egg Laying Depths on Giant African Land Snail (Gastropoda: Achatinidae) Viability).
5. They are banned in many countries
Due to their extreme appetites (especially for agricultural crops), their adaptability to a variety of habitats, and fast reproduction rates, these snails are banned, even as pets, in many countries.
They have been unintentionally introduced to many countries around the globe where major efforts are made to eliminate them.
6. Giant African snails are hermaphrodites
What makes things worse, from the invasive species perspective, is that Giant African snails are hermaphrodites, which means all snails have both male and female reproductive organs. Any two giant African snails can mate when they meet, and either one or both can lay eggs after mating.
They will lay about 100 to 500 eggs after mating.
7. Adult snails exhibit homing behavior
Similar to chitons, homing behavior has been observed in adult snails. Homing behavior is the ability of an animal to navigate and return to the same specific location or territory after leaving it.
Only adults exhibit this behavior; juveniles don’t (study: Homing behavior of the giant African snail, Achatina fulica (Ferussac) (Gastropoda; Pulmonata)).
8. They are edible but need to be prepared carefully
Giant African snails are considered a delicacy in some parts of the world and are consumed as food in some cultures. However, these snails can also be carriers of diseases and parasites (like the deadly rat lungworm) that can be harmful to humans if not properly thermally prepared.
9. Giant African snails have a taste for houses
Large shells require large quantities of calcium. They get their calcium from a variety of sources, the plants they eat, bones, and shells of other snails. In urban areas, they found another source they are keen on stucco, a type of exterior plaster that is commonly used as a finish for walls, ceilings, and other surfaces, which contains calcium. These snails can seriously damage walls.