The War of the Snails, Round Two: The Heavyweight

Today’s post is by Bryony from the Visitor Team at Manchester Museum. We are not experts, but we are people with a passionate interest in the museum and its objects. We each bring our own insight into Manchester Museum and its collections.

For more about zoology and nature at Manchester Museum, please visit the Curator’s blogNature Manchester.

The War of the Snails, Round Two: The Heavyweight

Remember our little Partula and Achatinella snails? If you don’t, Part One can be found here: Round One: The Home Favourite

The African giant land snail is the largest snail in the world. It can eat hundreds of different plants, and thanks to the fact that all snails are simultaneous hermaphrodites (meaning they both have both sets of genitalia at the same time), when any two snails meet they can breed, producing up to 200 eggs at a time – per snail in the pair!

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Almost cute, isn’t it? Now multiply up to 200 and make them all half a foot long.

It was introduced to the Pacific islands as a misguided attempt to produce an easy-to-cultivate food, but, as species that are not naturally a part of the area’s food chain are prone to doing, their population exploded. With no natural predators and an abundance of tasty food, shortly the islands were swimming with snails, eating through the local vegetation and without having caught on as a tasty foodstuff at all.

Left, Achatina fusica, an African giant land snail, invasive in many countries – shown here against a human hand. Compare that to the diminutive Partula in the previous instalment. Yummy! On the right, shells of a relative from Principe, Nature’s Library, Manchester Museum.

It will be familiar to many of you as a popular pet, loved by children in many parts of the world for it’s gross size and thick slime. And, of course, its willingness to eat literally anything green.

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You can even get a white one if you want!

The intrusion of this giant snail would have had an impact on the little Partula and Achatinella snails purely thanks to all the local vegetation they chomped through, but it was not enough to deal them the finishing blow. That would take something sleeker, something more dangerous – a snail-eater. This snail-eater was itself a snail. What happened next? Find out in the final instalment!

Bryony Rigby

For more about zoology and nature at Manchester Museum, please visit the Curator’s blogNature Manchester.

And read about Natural History from the Visitor Team;
Mythical Creatures in Manchester Museum
Hairy Stories and Furry Tales


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