Plant selection and grazing activity of the invasive snail Theba pisana in coastal Algoa Bay, South Africa.
The land snail Theba pisana is a coastal species native to the Mediterranean but has been introduced to regions all over the world, including South Africa and Australia, where it is considered a pest. This study examines the diet of T. pisana and its preference for certain dune plants in the Cape Recife Nature Reserve of Algoa Bay in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. Field observations identified plants being fed on by T. pisana, accounting for almost half of the dune plant species present in the study area. Five plant species, on which snails were found frequently and in high abundance, were selected for feeding preference experiments. Laboratory experiments and field observations indicate that T. pisana feed preferentially on Tetragonia decumbens over Osteospermum moniliferum, Osyris compressa and Cynanchum obtusifolium. It is clear that while T. pisana is reported to have a generalist diet, consuming a range of plant species commonly found in South African dune vegetation, it also exhibits a definite preference for T. decumbens. The reasons for this preference need to be investigated further.