The giant African land snail is one of the most invasive species in the world. Originally for Eastern Africa, mainly Tanzania, Mozambique, Somalia, and Kenya, they have now spread to most tropical areas across the world. They can adapt to a wide variety of environments, such as forests, scrubland, coasts, wetlands, agricultural land, and cities.
The diet of a giant African land snail is diverse. Normally, they are herbivores. Their favorite foods are fungi, lichens, fruit, vegetables, and flowers. Sometimes, they consume already-dead small animals, like rodents or birds. In order to have enough calcium for their shells, these snails also eat bones or small stones. In captivity, they can be given egg shells for calcium.
These are solitary nocturnal animals who only interact with each other for courtship and mating. Their courtship rituals last about an hour and are only successful about 90% of the time. During the day, they tend to sleep in shade or bury themselves in sand to stave off the heat of the day. On the other hand, these snails are also able to survive cold weather by becoming slow and waiting for warmer weather, just like how many small mammals go into a state of torpor in the winter.
Giant African land snails are simultaneous hermaphrodites, meaning that they possess both sperm and ova at once. Successful mating between two snails may result in both becoming pregnant. They lay shelled eggs, usually 200 per clutch, five to six times per year. The snails are small when hatching and grow to an adult size in six months. Their growth slows down after that but never stops. In the wild, these snails live for about five years, but they have been known to sometimes live for up to 10 years.
In places around the world where the giant African snail is an invasive species, they frequently cause damage to crops and weaken buildings by eating the stucco or concrete in them for calcium. There are strict laws against releasing captive snails in many countries, but it only takes one snail carrying eggs to create a large population. Attempts to introduce predators to giant African snails have failed in the past; the predators instead wipe out native species.
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