Giant African Snails Strike Again!
Once again, Lissachatina fulica has been found in Florida, this time in Miramar, a city in south Broward County. This is one more episode in the saga of the introduction of Giant African Snails (GAS) in the Sunshine State. The species has been introduced to Florida and found at least four times since 1966, most recently in 2022. Most of the time these introduced snails were eradicated, at the expense of copious amounts of taxpayer-supported funds. Originally from East Africa, the species has been introduced to many areas of the world through the “pet” trade, accidental introduction with plants, shipped with other cargo, or purposefully smuggled for use in religious rituals.
Adult GAS reach about 20 cm (about 8 inch) in length. They eat a wide range of plants, fruits, vegetables, fungi, lichen, paper, cardboard, stucco, and other construction materials. They can also be cannibalistic and consume other snails’ eggs. GAS are hermaphrodites, simultaneously transferring gametes to each other during copulation, which increases the number of offspring resulting from one mating event. They can produce 5-6 clutches of about 200 eggs per year, prompting fast exponential increases in numbers of individuals in any given area occupied by the species. GAS is an intermediary host to the “rat lugworm,” Angiostrongylus cantonensis, a worm that causes eosinophyilic meningoencephalitis (a very serious meningitis in humans), and other harmful parasites.
GAS is also indirectly linked to extirpation and extinction of a large number of Pacific islands land snail species, as a result of the associated, intentional introduction of the mollusk-eating Rosy Wolf Snail, Euglandina rosea. The Rosy Wolf Snail was intentionally released in Hawaii in 1955, in a failed and disastrous attempt to eradicate the invasive GAS, first introduced to Hawaii in the 1930s and deemed extremely harmful to local agriculture. The introduced species did not accomplish what was expected: GAS continued to thrive in Hawaii, and the Rosy Wolf Snail, in a catastrophic turn of events, anhiliated most of the native land snail species. A similar state of affairs happened in Tahiti (with the extinction of a large number of species of Partula snails) and other Pacific islands. Once again, I hope they can succeed in their quarantine efforts and eradicate GAS from Broward County.