Achatina fulica (giant African land snail)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Hosts/Species Affected
- Host Plants and Other Plants Affected
- Growth Stages
- List of Symptoms/Signs
- Biology and Ecology
- Natural enemies
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Causes
- Pathway Vectors
- Plant Trade
- Impact Summary
- Economic Impact
- Environmental Impact
- Threatened Species
- Social Impact
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Detection and Inspection
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Principal Source
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Achatina fulica Bowdich 1822
Preferred Common Name
- giant African land snail
Other Scientific Names
- Lissachatina fulica (Bowdich)
International Common Names
- English: African giant snail; giant African snail; kalutara snail
- Spanish: acatina africana; caracol gigante africano; gran caracol africano
- French: achatine de Madagascar; achatine foulque; achatine mauritanienne; escargot géant africain; escargot géant d'Afrique
Local Common Names
- Brazil: caracol gigante africano; caramujo gigante africano
- Germany: Afrikanische Riesenschnecke; grosse Achatschnecke
- Italy: acatina africana; acatina dell' Isola Maurizio
- Netherlands: agaatslak; grote Afrikaanse slak
- ACHAFU (Achatina fulica)
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
The giant African land snail A. fulica is a fast-growing polyphagous plant pest that has been introduced from its native range in East Africa to many parts of the world as a commercial food source (for humans, fish and livestock) and as a novelty pet. It easily becomes attached to any means of transport or machinery at any developmental stage, is able to go into a state of aestivation in cooler conditions and so is readily transportable over distances. Once escaped it has managed to establish itself and reproduce prodigiously in tropical and some temperate locations. As a result, A. fulica has been classified as one of the world's top 100 invasive alien species by The World Conservation Union, IUCN (ISSG, 2003).
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Metazoa
- Phylum: Mollusca
- Class: Gastropoda
- Subclass: Pulmonata
- Order: Stylommatophora
- Suborder: Sigmurethra
- Unknown: Achatinoidea
- Family: Achatinidae
- Genus: Achatina
- Species: Achatina fulica
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
A. fulica is currently included within the subgenus Lissachatina. Based on nepionic whorls, Bequaert (1950) placed the West and Central African species of genus Achatina in subgenus Achatina and the East African species in his new subgenus Lissachatina. Mead (1995) provided complementary support for the differentiation of the subgenera based on comparative anatomical studies of the reproductive tracts. Recently, some authors have treated Lissachatina as a genus; however, at present, no published taxonomic works are available to sustain this treatment.
DescriptionTop of page
A. fulica is distinctive in appearance and is readily identified by its large size and relatively long, narrow, conical shell. Reaching a length of up to 20 cm, the shell is more commonly in the size range 5-10 cm. The colour can be variable but is most commonly light brown, with alternating brown and cream bands on young snails and the upper whorls of larger specimens. The coloration becomes lighter towards the tip of the shell, which is almost white. There are from seven to nine spirally striate whorls with moderately impressed sutures. The shell aperture is ovate-lunate to round-lunate with a sharp, unreflected outer lip. The mantle is dark brown with rubbery skin. There are two pairs of tentacles on the head: a short lower pair and a large upper pair with round eyes situated at the tip. The mouth has a horned mandible, and a radula containing about 142 rows of teeth, with 129 teeth per row (Schotman, 1989; Salgado, 2010). Eggs are spherical to ellipsoidal in shape (4.5-5.5 mm in diameter) and are yellow to cream in colour.
DistributionTop of page
A. fulica is native to the east coast of Africa (Pilsbry, 1904; Lange, 1950). The species is present naturally from Natal and Mozambique in the south to Kenya and southern part of Ethiopia and Somalia in the north, and it extends 250-830 km from the coast, going farthest inland in the northern section of the range (Lange, 1950; Raut and Barker, 2002). According to the literature, part of the distribution of A. fulica within Africa may be due to introduction by humans (Verdcourt, 1961 in Raut and Barker, 2002). Within this continent, the species has been recognized as introduced in Madagascar and many other islands of the coastal area of East Africa (Bequaert, 1950; Raut and Barker, 2002). It is also likely to have become an established part of the snail fauna of West Africa following reports from Côte d'Ivoire, Togo, Nigeria, Ghana (Winter, 1989; Monney, 2001; Ekoué and Kuevi-Akue, 2002; Ademolu et al., 2013) and a shell has been identified in Morocco (van Bruggen, 1987), the first discovery of this species from anywhere in the Palearctic.
Currently, A. fulica is widespread as an invasive species out of Africa in all continents with tropical and subtropical climates. It owes most of its current wide distribution to human activity (Dharmaraju, 1984).
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.Last updated: 05 Aug 2021
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|Central African Republic||Present|
|Ghana||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Became the dominant achatinid shortly after its introduction|
|Madagascar||Present, Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||First reported: Prior to 1800|
|Morocco||Absent, Intercepted only|
|South Africa||Absent, Formerly present||Recorded from Durban but no established colonies now evident; First reported: 1900s|
|Togo||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Original citation: Ekoué & Kuevi-Akue, 2002|
|-Fujian||Present||Introduced||Invasive||In the south|
|-Guizhou||Present, Localized||Introduced||Invasive||In one county|
|-Yunnan||Present||Introduced||Invasive||In southern areas|
|Hong Kong||Present, Widespread||Introduced||1937|
|-Andaman and Nicobar Islands||Present, Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||First reported: 1940s|
|-Madhya Pradesh||Present, Widespread||Introduced||Invasive|
|-West Bengal||Present, Widespread||Introduced||Invasive|
|Israel||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Present in human dominated habitats|
|Nepal||Present||Introduced||Invasive||First reported: 1930-1940|
|Sri Lanka||Present, Widespread||Introduced||1900||Invasive|
|Thailand||Present||Introduced||First reported: 1930s|
|Antigua and Barbuda||Present, Transient under eradication||Introduced||2008||Invasive||Identified in Antigua in April 2008 in the south-west of the island. Not reported from Barbuda|
|Costa Rica||Present, Transient under eradication|
|Saint Lucia||Present, Localized||Introduced||2000||Invasive|
|Trinidad and Tobago||Present, Few occurrences||Introduced||2008||Found at Alyce Glen Gardens Petit Valley, North West Trinidad in Oct. 2008; restricted to an area 1.0 km²|
|United States||Present, Localized||Present, in Hawaii; under eradication in Florida|
|-Florida||Present, Transient under eradication||Introduced||1969||Invasive||Single infestation found in 1969 and eradicated. Reported in September 2011 in Miami, under eradication|
|American Samoa||Present, Localized||Introduced||1977||Invasive|
|Federated States of Micronesia||Present||Introduced||1938||Invasive|
|Fiji||Absent, Formerly present||Not currently established in Fiji, although it is sometimes intercepted by quarantine control on cargo vessels arriving from overseas|
|French Polynesia||Present, Localized||Introduced||1967||Invasive|
|Kiribati||Absent, Formerly present|
|New Caledonia||Present, Localized||Introduced||1972||Invasive|
|New Zealand||Absent, Invalid presence record(s)|
|Niue||Absent, Formerly present|
|Northern Mariana Islands||Present, Localized||Introduced||1936||Invasive|
|Papua New Guinea||Present, Localized||Introduced||1946||Invasive||Reached the outer islands of Papua New Guinea by 1946 and mainland New Guinea by 1976-1977|
|Samoa||Present||Introduced||Invasive||First reported: 1990s|
|Solomon Islands||Present, Localized|
|Tonga||Absent, Formerly present|
|U.S. Minor Outlying Islands||Present, Widespread|
|Wallis and Futuna||Present, Widespread||Introduced||Invasive|
|Argentina||Present, Localized||Introduced||2010||Invasive||First detected in 2010 in Puerto Iguazú City. A second occurrence was recorded in May 2013 in Corrientes city >600 km further south|
|Bolivia||Present, Only in captivity/cultivation||Introduced||Commericalized in La Paz, not reported from the wild|
|Brazil||Present, Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||First reported: 1980s|
|-Mato Grosso do Sul||Present|
|-Minas Gerais||Present, Widespread||Introduced||Invasive|
|-Rio de Janeiro||Present, Widespread||Introduced||Invasive|
|-Rio Grande do Norte||Present|
|-Rio Grande do Sul||Present|
|-Santa Catarina||Present, Widespread||Introduced||Invasive|
|-Sao Paulo||Present, Widespread||Introduced||Invasive|
|Ecuador||Present||Introduced||2005||Invasive||First reported in Esmeraldas Province in 2005, and is established in most of the coastal provinces of the country, as well as on the Amazonian side of the Ecuadorian Andes|
|Paraguay||Present||Introduced||2010||Invasive||First detected in 2010 in Ayolas City, Department of Misiones|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
According to Bequaert (1950), the spread of A. fulica from its native range in East Africa is entirely due to transport by man, usually deliberate, in few cases accidental. The species has been introduced to new regions mainly as a food resource, but also for other reasons which, according to Cowie and Robinson (2003), include: medicinal purposes (such as in Hawaii, Mauritius, Réunion); as pets (the introduction in Florida in the 1960s resulted from the deliberate importation of snails from Hawaii by a child); and for aesthetic reasons.
Raut and Barker (2002) and Fischer et al. (2010) summarize the dispersal sequence of the species, which was introduced to Madagascar prior to 1800 from Kenya, but was not accepted as an edible species. However, the species was attributed medicinal properties and it was introduced to Mauritius and thence to many islands in Indian Ocean. From there, it was introduced to India and Sri Lanka. By the 1930s, the species had been spread throughout East Asia. Subsequent dispersal continued into the Pacific aided in part, by the Second World War and postwar commerce (Raut and Barker, 2002). Since the mid-20th Century, the species reached Papua New Guinea, Tahiti, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, French Polynesia, American Samoa, Samoa and Federate States of Micronesia (Raut and Barker, 2002 and references therein) and is now present in most parts fo the Indo-Pacific (Cowie, 2000).
In the Americas, A. fulica was found established in the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe in 1984 and Martinique in 1988 (Schotman, 1989; Raut and Barker, 2002). It was introduced to South America (Brazil) in the late 1980s as a commercial species and has spread widely there and in other countries on the continent (Paiva, 1999; Vogler et al., 2013).
Escapes from abandoned breeding facilities, accidental transport with building materials, waste and plants, and use as fishing bait have contributed to the local spread.
IntroductionsTop of page
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
Because of its African origin, it has been supposed that A. fulica will be confined to tropical environments. However, the species exhibits wide environmental tolerances (Raut and Barker, 2002). It not only has demonstrated its success as an invader in the tropics, but also is well established in temperate landscapes (e.g. Japan, Argentina). It was not introduced to South America until the late 1980s and is now present in almost all states of Brazil and is spreading in several other countries. Bioclimatic models have been used to identify further South American areas that are susceptible to invasion (Vogler et al., 2013).
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial||Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Managed forests, plantations and orchards||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Disturbed areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Urban / peri-urban areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural forests||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural forests||Principal habitat||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Riverbanks||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Wetlands||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Scrub / shrublands||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Littoral||Coastal areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
Hosts/Species AffectedTop of page
A. fulica is a polyphagous pest. Its preferred food is decayed vegetation and animal matter, lichens, algae and fungi. However, the potential of the snail as a pest only became apparent after having been introduced around the world into new environments (Rees, 1950). It has been recorded on a large number of plants including most ornamentals, and vegetables and leguminous cover crops may also suffer extensively. The bark of relatively large trees such as citrus, papaya, rubber and cacao is subject to attack. There are reports of A. fulica feeding on hundreds of species of plants (Raut and Ghose, 1984; Raut and Barker, 2002). Thakur (1998) found that vegetables of the genus Brassica were the most preferred food item from a range of various food plants tested. However, the preference for particular plants at a particular locality is dependent primarily on the composition of the plant communities, with respect to both the species present and the age of the plants of the different species (Raut and Barker, 2002). Crops in the Poaceae family (sugarcane, maize, rice) suffer little or no damage from A. fulica.
Given the polyphagous nature of A. fulica any host list is unlikely to be comprehensive. Those plant hosts included in this datasheet have been found in literature searches and Venette and Larson (2004).
Host Plants and Other Plants AffectedTop of page
Growth StagesTop of page
SymptomsTop of page
In garden plants and ornamentals of a number of varieties, and vegetables, all stages of development are eaten, leading to severe damage in those species that are most often attacked. However, cuttings and seedlings are the preferred food items, even of plants such as Artocarpus which are not attacked in the mature state. In these plants damage is caused by complete consumption or removal of bark. Young snails up to about 4 months feed almost exclusively on young shoots and succulent leaves. The papaya is one of the main fruits which is seriously damaged by A. fulica, largely as a result of its preference for fallen and decaying fruit.
In plants such as rice, which are not targets of A. fulica, sometimes sheer weight of numbers can result in broken stems. In general, physical destruction to the cover crop results in secondary damage to the main crop, which relies on the cover crop for manure, shade, soil and moisture retention and/or nitrogen restoration. This in turn can result in a reduction in the available nitrogen in the soil and consequently marked erosion in steeper areas.
List of Symptoms/SignsTop of page
|Fruit / external feeding|
|Fruit / lesions: scab or pitting|
|Growing point / external feeding|
|Leaves / external feeding|
|Leaves / necrotic areas|
|Roots / external feeding|
|Stems / discoloration of bark|
|Whole plant / early senescence|
|Whole plant / external feeding|
|Whole plant / uprooted or toppled|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
Bequaert (1950) described the biology of Achatininae in general. Mead (1961), Raut and Barker (2002), and Fischer and Costa (2010) considered the biology and ecology of A. fulica in terms of economic damage and pest control.
In a review of chromosomal studies of gastropod molluscs, Thiriot-Quiévreux (2003) presents the diploid chromosome numbers of A. fulica from India as 2n = 60, but in the same species from China 2n = 62. Moreover, the karyotypes of these two populations are very different, the population from India having a majority of metacentric chromosomes, while the population from China has a majority of telocentric chromosomes.
Vercourt (1966) recognized two colour morphs in the East African coastal race: radatzi (unstreaked) and hamillei (streaked), which were otherwise identical in morphology. Mead (1961) commented on the noticeable variability of A. fulica in both shell size and shape, with these factors varying with locality. He reported snails on Guam commonly close to 6 inches, but on Micronesia 3.5 to 4.5 inches being closer to the average. Peterson (in Mead, 1961) recorded one specimen of just under 8 inches. Shells from Anguar in the Pelaus had a deep, rich, contrasting colour pattern, with a thick periostracum and a nacreous gloss, whereas those from Koror Island were almost white and devoid of a periostracum. White snails have been reported from Africa (Owen and Reid, 1986). Specimens from some populations on Sri Lanka and Hawaii are darker in colour with a long axis and reduced body whorl. Such variability in snails is often the result of environmental factors such as varying levels in the supply of calcium carbonate, but the genetic effect resulting from small founding populations may be responsible for much inter-island variation. The inheritance of shell colour polymorphism in A. fulica has been studied by Allen (1983).
A. fulica is a protandric hermaphrodite, with the male gonad maturating first (Fischer and Costa, 2010). It generally attains sexual maturity at the age of 5-8 months under field conditions (Bequaert, 1950; Mead, 1961; Raut, 1991). After a single mating, it can produce a number of batches of fertile eggs over a period of months. Early reports of self-fertilization (Meer Mohr, 1949) have since been discounted. It lays eggs in batches of 100 to 400, with up to 1200 being laid in a year. These hatch after about 8-21 days under tropical conditions. They are laid on the ground, often in the base of plants. The prodigality of A. fulica is renowned and the literature contains many anecdotes and astonishing estimates of the potential number of progeny if all were to survive (see Mead, 1961, 1979; Raut and Barker, 2002).
Courtship behaviour was studied in the field by Tomiyama (1994). This was exclusively a nocturnal activity. Mating is generally reciprocal, and pairing occurs between animals of similar size (Raut and Barker, 2002). Duration in copulation was shorter in young adults than in older adults but occurred during most periods of the night. Older adults were found to copulate only in the middle of the night. The duration of copulation in A. fulica is typically 6-8 hours but can extend to 24 hours (Fischer and Costa, 2010). Courtship behaviour of A. fulica follows a fixed pattern, with different behaviour occurring between the courtship initiator and the acceptor, in contrast to many other species of land snails where it is immediately reciprocal.
Tomiyama (1993) also investigated the correlation between shell growth and the maturation of the reproductive system. The reproductive gland was formed by the end of the year after hatching. Shell growth continued for some months after, but no reflection of the lip was observed - an event commonly considered to indicate sexual maturity in most land snails. Only sperm were produced while shell growth continued, but both sperm and eggs were produced when shell growth stopped. The snails had then become completely hermaphroditic.
Although the adult has an average life span of 3-5 years it may live for as long as 9 years (Raut and Barker, 2002). It will readily enter a state of aestivation and can survive for years in this state. The tendency for a number of aestivating snails to be present in an area at any time, particularly when conditions are optimum for activity, can make control measures difficult.
The life history of Achatina snails was described by Williams (1951). More recently, investigations carried out by Raut (1991) in West Bengal, India, found that A. fulica became sexually mature in their second year and produced 2-13 egg clutches overall up to their fifth year. The number of eggs per clutch ranged from around 30 to 300, with a gradual increase occurring in line with the age of the snails. The mean fertility rate was 94.6%, but again was higher in clutches laid by older snails than in those laid by younger snails. Birth rate varied with the age of the individuals. There was no recruitment up to the age of 422 days (including the aestivation period). The period between ovipositions (21-76 days) was lower during active periods when both active and aestivation periods were considered. The snails survived for between 1 and 1562 days. Mortality rate was higher in young snails, especially during aestivation. Overall, from the time of hatching to sexual maturity, mortality was found to be 49%. The life table for A. fulica indicated that 0-day-old individuals would survive for 638.5 days, whereas individuals that were 1550 days old were expected to survive for another 25 days. The mean total output of eggs per season varied considerably from 100+ to 700, with an average lifetime output of 1300. Raut's findings in general concur with those of other studies.
Although A. fulica is a tropical snail, it can survive cold conditions, even snow, by aestivating. Any site that provides adequate protection from light ad desiccation will be used by the species for daytime sheltering and for aestivation (Raut and Barker, 2002). It is normally nocturnal and crepuscular in its habits, and like other terrestrial gastropods it is active under high-humidity conditions (Raut and Barker, 2002). Takeda and Ozaki (1986) demonstrated an endogenous circadian rhythm that is independent of temperature and light conditions but regulated by hydration effects on haemolymph osmolality. There is evidence that growth rate may be density dependent (Sidelnikov and Stepanov, 2000).
Natural enemiesTop of page
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
Mead (1961) commented on the paucity of natural enemies of A. fulica in its native East Africa. Although animals from many groups, including birds, mammals and reptiles, will feed on achatinids, he was reviewing the topic in terms of potential natural control in regions where they had been introduced. He noted that those that it does have are of questionable value in effecting any real control. This is the major reason why foreign predators, notably Euglandina rosea and Platydemus manokwari, have been sought as agents of biological control, having been introduced into Pacific islands from Florida, USA, and New Guinea respectively. Two species of East African carnivorous snails of the genus Gonaxis have also been established in many areas, though accounts vary as to their effectiveness on islands of introduction, where their impact on crop protection has been minimal. In addition, two East African species of predatory carabid beetles and five species of lampyrid beetle from South-East Asia are known to prey on A. fulica.
On Christmas Island (Kiritimati), there is good evidence that the endemic red crab Gecarcoidea natalis restricts the distribution of A. fulica, especially in undisturbed rain forest (Lake and O'Dowd, 1991). Predatory hermit crabs, primarily Coenibitus perlatus, and robber crabs, Birgus latro, have made it difficult for A. fulica to become established on coral islands. Rats, centipedes, millipedes and fire ants are all known to prey on the giant African snail on Indo-Pacific Islands. In Rajasthan in India, A. fulica was observed by Tehsin and Sharma (2000) to be eaten by the coucal (Centropus sinensis), a small bird related to the cuckoo.
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
The spread of A. fulica from its native range in East Africa is entirely due to transport by man, usually deliberate, in few cases accidental (Bequaert, 1950). Cowie and Robinson (2003) present different examples on pathways involving A. fulica.
A. fulica is self-propelled.
Eggs and snails accidentally become attached to agricultural machinery and vehicles, and are readily transported in garden waste.
Pathway CausesTop of page
|Escape from confinement or garden escape||Accidental||Yes|
|Food||Introduced as a food||Yes||Yes|
|Garden waste disposal||Accidental||Yes|
|Live food or feed trade||Yes||Yes|
Pathway VectorsTop of page
|Clothing, footwear and possessions||Yes|
|Plants or parts of plants||Nursery trade||Yes|
|Ship structures above the water line||Yes|
|Soil, sand and gravel||Yes|
|Bulk freight or cargo||Yes|
|Debris and waste associated with human activities||Yes|
|Machinery and equipment||Yes||Yes|
Plant TradeTop of page
|Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transport||Pest stages||Borne internally||Borne externally||Visibility of pest or symptoms|
|Bulbs/Tubers/Corms/Rhizomes||nematodes/eggs; nematodes/juveniles||Yes||Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye|
|Leaves||nematodes/eggs; nematodes/juveniles||Yes||Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye|
|Roots||nematodes/eggs; nematodes/juveniles||Yes||Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye|
|Stems (above ground)/Shoots/Trunks/Branches||nematodes/eggs; nematodes/juveniles||Yes||Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye|
|Plant parts not known to carry the pest in trade/transport|
|Growing medium accompanying plants|
|True seeds (inc. grain)|
Impact SummaryTop of page
|Fisheries / aquaculture||None|
Economic ImpactTop of page
A. fulica has a voracious appetite and has been recorded as attacking different kinds of economically, ornamental and medicinal plants (Raut and Barker, 2002) although it has a preference for breadfruit, cassava, papaya, peanut, rubber and most species of legumes and cucurbits. The economic impact of A. fulica was considered to be so profound that the new discipline of economic malacology was formulated by zoologist Albert Mead (Mead, 1961, 1979) to take account of a pest species which appeared to be threatening already inadequate food supplies in poor regions of the world. Mead devoted his book to the economic impact of A. fulica. There had been reports that the species would devour virtually anything found in the garden (Jarrett, 1923, 1931) and Mead evaluated A. fulica as a major horticultural and agricultural pest. However, many reports of widespread damage by A. fulica have been anecdotal and more recently Civeyrel and Simberloff (1996) suggest that the lasting impact of A. fulica on agriculture may not be severe, and the human health risk is probably minor.
It is difficult to quantify the damage wrought by A. fulica to gardens and crops, but suffice to say that it is considered by most authorities to be the most damaging land snail in the world. However, Civeyrel and Simberloff (1996) believe that the damage done to endemic species of snail by ill-judged biological control programmes outweighs the impact of the pest species. The dramatic population crashes commonly observed in populations of A. fulica which had increased rapidly in size following introduction into new environments, may well lessen the deleterious long-term economic impact of the species, though it remains a serious pest in many areas. Raut and Barker (2002) cite several examples of the production of some crops that has proved unsustainable in certain infested areas.
Environmental ImpactTop of page
Cowie (ISSG, 2003) believes the agricultural impacts of A. fulica may have been exaggerated, the nuisance factor perhaps being more important. By reaching such enormous numbers and invading native ecosystems they also pose a serious conservation problem by eating native plants, modifying habitat, and probably out-competing native snails.
Threatened SpeciesTop of page
|Threatened Species||Conservation Status||Where Threatened||Mechanism||References||Notes|
|Myrsine vaccinioides (Violet Lake colicwood)||NatureServe; USA ESA listing as endangered species||Hawaii||Herbivory/grazing/browsing||US Fish and Wildlife Service (2013)|
|Peperomia subpetiolata (Waikamoi peperomia)||NatureServe; USA ESA listing as endangered species||Hawaii||Herbivory/grazing/browsing||US Fish and Wildlife Service (2013)|
|Phyllostegia bracteata (bracted phyllostegia)||NatureServe; USA ESA listing as endangered species||Hawaii||Herbivory/grazing/browsing||US Fish and Wildlife Service (2013)|
|Scaevola coriacea (dwarf naupaka)||NatureServe; USA ESA listing as endangered species||Hawaii||Ecosystem change / habitat alteration||US Fish and Wildlife Service (2010)|
Social ImpactTop of page
Perhaps the biggest social impact wrought by A. fulica is its nuisance value as large numbers of snails build up. Not only are they unsightly but cadavers make smell and mess, especially where they are run over by traffic, which invariably happens during rapid growth of numbers. Additionally, empty shells can act as breeding sites for mosquito larvae of different species (Jayashankar and Reddy, 2010).
A. fulica can act as a vector of the human disease, eosinophilic meningitis, which is caused by the rat lungworm parasite, Angiostrongylus cantonensis. The parasite is passed to humans through eating raw or improperly cooked snails or freshwater prawns. It is therefore advisable to wash one's hands after handling the snail. However, Cowie (2000, 2013) states that many other introduced snails in the tropics are vectors of this parasite and the spread of the disease has not definitively been related to the spread of A. fulica. In addition, A. fulica can act as a vector for another congeneric species, A. costaricensis, which is important from a public health standpoint as the causative agent of abdominal angiostrongyliasis, a zoonosis recorded from southern USA to northern Argentina (Thiengo et al., 2007, 2013). Also, A. fulica can act as a host of parasites of wildlife and domestic animals, as reported in Brazil (Fischer and Costa, 2010).
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Is a habitat generalist
- Capable of securing and ingesting a wide range of food
- Highly mobile locally
- Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
- Long lived
- Has high reproductive potential
- Reproduces asexually
- Has high genetic variability
- Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
- Host damage
- Negatively impacts agriculture
- Negatively impacts human health
- Negatively impacts animal health
- Negatively impacts livelihoods
- Threat to/ loss of endangered species
- Threat to/ loss of native species
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Pest and disease transmission
- Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
- Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
- Difficult/costly to control
UsesTop of page
In its native East Africa, A. fulica is a source of protein for some local people. Tillier et al. (1993) stated that although A. fulica is a vector of rat lungworm which causes eosinophilic meningitis in humans, it is nevertheless suitable for human consumption if properly prepared and cooked, and has not been in contact with poisoned bait. Instructions for that process were included in the Pest Advisory Leaflet of the South Pacific Commission (Lambert, 1999). It is widely advertised as food on Chinese Internet sites. In this sense, various studies have evaluated the nutritional properties of the meat of A. fulica (e.g. Barboza et al., 2006; Babalola and Akinsoyinu, 2009). A. fulica can also be useful in making fertilizer and chicken feed (Barboza and Romanelli, 2007; Diomandé et al., 2008). It has been tested as a cheap alternative source of feed in fish farming in Sri Lanka and India (Suresh, 2007). In Java, although consumption depends on the consumer's ethnic background, the breeding of A. fulica can benefit disadvantaged groups and help to conserve the natural snail population (Schneider et al., 1998).
In common with a number of other molluscan species, A. fulica has been used as a source of biological compound in clinical and experimental laboratories. It has been widely utilized in neurobiology and electrophysiology (Tamamaki, 1989; Zhang et al., 1996), endocrinology (Takeda and Ohtake, 1994; Bose et al., 1997), comparative biochemistry and physiology (Kalyani, 1990; Misra and Shrivastava, 1994; Indra and Ramalingam, 1996; Kholodkevich et al., 2010), reproductive biology (Sretarugsa et al., 1991), parasitology (Utomo et al., 1991), immunology (Harris et al., 1992), molecular biology (Obara et al., 1992), and as a source for producing chemicals (Lesbani et al., 2013).
In the UK and in a few US states, where it is permissable to do so, A. fulica (along with the two main West African species) is sometimes kept as a pet.
Uses ListTop of page
Animal feed, fodder, forage
- Fodder/animal feed
- Botanical garden/zoo
- Laboratory use
- Pet/aquarium trade
- Research model
Human food and beverage
- Meat/fat/offal/blood/bone (whole, cut, fresh, frozen, canned, cured, processed or smoked)
- Source of medicine/pharmaceutical
Detection and InspectionTop of page
A. fulica is a large and conspicuous crop pest which hides during the day. Surveys are best carried out at night using a flashlight. It is easily seen, and attacked plants exhibit extensive rasping and defoliation. Weight of numbers can break the stems of some species. Its presence can also be detected by signs of ribbon-like excrement, and slime trails on plants and buildings.
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
There are a number of species of giant achatinids distributed across sub-Saharan Africa from Zanzibar to Freetown, though three are most often encountered. A. fulica from East Africa is somewhat smaller than its similar counterpart in West Africa, Achatina marginata, and has a more pointed apex to its shell. Another similar species, Achatina achatina, also from West Africa, is the world's largest gastropod with a maximum recorded shell length of 27 cm and a weight of almost 1 kg. A. achatina lays around six large (15 mm) eggs at a time compared to several hundred smaller (3-4 mm) eggs laid by A. fulica. All three species form part of the diet of local people. In South America, specimens of the native giant gastropods belonging to the genus Megalobulimus are often confused with A. fulica by locals (Fischer and Costa, 2010).
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.
A vast body of literature has accrued on the various methods of control available for A. fulica (e.g. Mead, 1961; Raut and Barker, 2002; Fischer and Costa, 2010). Half of Mead's 1961 book on the economic impact of the giant African snail was devoted to control. Perhaps the major problem with testing the efficacy of control measures in experiments is the ability to distinguish the level of success of the method under test and the natural demographic crashes that are a renowned feature of the population dynamics of this species. One of the officially documented examples of eradication is Florida, USA, in 1969 (Schotman, 1989).
The FAO International Plant Quarantine Treatment Manual (FAO, 1981) describes protocols for treatments to eliminate infestations of A. fulica on non-plant cargo using hydrogen cyanide and cold treatments (Schotman, 1989). In addition to the plant quarantine inspection of incoming carriers and cargo at international points of entry, thorough pre-departure quarantine inspection from countries where A. fulica occurs should also be undertaken.
Again, Mead (1961) reviewed in considerable depth all the species of animals, from microbes to mammals, that either prey on A. fulica or may do so given the opportunity, and assessed their potential as biological control agents. Those species that offered the best potential prospects, namely predatory insects and molluscs, had a major drawback: they either failed to survive or become established on introduction, or they were likely to pose a serious potential threat to native species if they did. It is interesting to note that even 40 years ago "the predatory snails Gonaxis kibwiensis and Euglandina rosea have taken the limelight almost entirely in the program of biological control of A. fulica" (Mead 1961).
It is unfortunate for many species of terrestrial gastropods on the islands of the Indian and Pacific Oceans that the introductions of the alien predatory molluscs as biological control agents against A. fulica were often conducted in haste, contrary to expert advice and without satisfactory field trials. This has led to widespread extinctions of endemic snail species without evidence that the introductions were effective against the target species (Murray et al., 1988; Civeyrel and Simberloff, 1996; Cowie, 1998; Cowie and Robinson, 2003). The principal agent of this ecological disaster was, and is, Euglandina rosea, a carnivorous snail species from Florida, USA. It has been introduced into many islands of the Indo-Pacific in an attempt to eradicate A. fulica but has had a catastrophic effect on endemic gastropods, most notably in French Polynesia (Cowie, 1992) and Hawaii (Hadfield et al., 1993). In French Polynesia population crashes of A. fulica were observed both on Moorea, after the introduction of E. rosea, and on Huahine in the absence of the predator (Murray et al., 1988).
E. rosea and a natural predator of A. fulica, Gonaxis quadrilateralis, both failed to control the pest in India (Srivastava et al., 1985). Further, the local carnivorous snail, Gulella indoennea bicolor, was killed by chemicals used against A. fulica. Gonaxis kibweziensis has failed to make an impression on populations of A. fulica on Mauritius, as has Edentulina ovoidea on Reunion Island.
Good control has been reported from Guam, the Marianas Islands and in the Maldives in the 1980s with the use of a non-specific planarian worm Platydemus manokwari (Muniappan, 1990). The same researchers describe similar success on Bugsuk Island in the Philippines (Muniappan et al., 1986) by distributing the flatworm in piles of coconut husks. P. manokwari is still seen in some quarters to be a potential control agent for A. fulica (Kaneda et al., 1990) but there are dangers in introducing a species where little is known of its ecology and life history. Invertebrate researchers and conservationists are disturbed by the non-specificity of P. manokwari and its targets and the lack of control over its dispersal, and strongly recommend that no further introductions of this species take place (Pearce Kelly et al., 1994). Another flatworm, Geoplana sp., was reported to have made an impact on populations of A. fulica in Guam (Schotman, 1989) but it should have no future as a biological control agent because it is a vector of human disease.
Kurozumi (1985) has discussed the possibility of using the slug, Incillaria sp., a common predator of eggs and adults of several species of land snail in Japan, as a potential biological control agent.
The most common means of chemical control against A. fulica has been the use of metaldehyde, though chemical molluscicides are no longer favoured and have proved ineffective in the control of this species. Both the authorities and local farmers on Samoa oppose the use of metaldehyde. Mead (1979) and Raut and Ghose (1984) have stated that all chemical means of control against A. fulica have so far failed. Raut and Barker (2002) state that although a number of molluscicidal chemicals are available, rarely they are developed or registered specifically for use against A. fulica. The FAO (Schotman, 1989) suggest that metaldehyde poison baits can be effective in small scale cultivation, but are not practicable elsewhere. Sharma and Agarwal (1989) recommended the use of 5% metaldehyde pellets, but only in conjunction with wider sanitation and physical control measures. However, Salmijah et al. (2000) record the development of resistance by A. fulica to metaldehyde.
Various insecticides and fungicides were tested against A. fulica by Kakoty and Das (1987) who found that only copper sulfate solution produced high mortality rates. An insecticidal bait has also been tested by Sarkar et al. (1997). Rao et al. (2000, 2003) looked at the effect of single and binary treatments of plant-derived molluscicides on reproduction and survival, and on different enzyme activities in the nervous tissue of A. fulica. Although results were positive, it was agreed that the sublethal exposure of these molluscicides on snail reproduction is a complex process. Saxena and Mahendru (2000) evaluated the efficacy of different baits (wet wheat, gram, barley and corn flour) and insecticides (malathion, trichlorfon and mexacarbate) against A. fulica, at different concentrations. The results showed that wet wheat flour was the best bait. Ciomperlik et al. (2013) conducted bioassays and caged field trials in Barbados, to compare the acute toxicities of molluscicide formulations on the neonate, juvenile, and adult development stages of A. fulica and three non-target snail species. They found that the majority of the molluscicides tested in their trials were equally or more lethal to the three non-target snail species than A. fulica, and showed that the potential impact on non-target snail species during control or eradication programs may be considerable, causing substantial mortality regardless of what brand, active ingredient, or formulation is used.
As A. fulica is primarily a pest in areas of human habitation, physical control can often be as effective as any other means where they congregate in large numbers. Physical control relies primarily on the collection and destruction of the snails from infested sites (Raut and Barker, 2002). Shah (1992) recommends that snails on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, where A. fulica is a major crop pest, can be collected and destroyed during aestivation between January and April when they hide under hedges and debris. Potential hiding places should be removed from fields. The snails can then be killed by sprinkling with salt or by exposure to the sun.
Physical control can be efficient by making a strip of 1.5 m wide bare soil around nurseries. Barriers or screens can be constructed using corrugated tin, security wire mesh and ditches dug around fields (Schotman, 1989). Snails can be collected each day and destroyed by crushing or drowning. The public can be involved in such collections by using organized campaigns. In developing countries children are often keen to be involved, treating the collection and destruction of large snails as a game. In Brazil, the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) developed the "Plan of action for the African snail Achatina fulica Bowdich, 1822” in 2004, which is aimed to provide advice to municipalities regarding the execution of the "C Day" or "Day to combat African snail ". The "C Day” is a holiday or Saturday where the IBAMA trains public officials and these act as multipliers, overseeing the collection of A. fulica performed by local school children (Fischer and Costa, 2010).
In some countries they are gathered for food in large quantities. A. fulica is one of four species of giant African snails, 30 tonnes of which are collected each year in Togo (Ekoué and Kuevi-Akue, 2002).
Integrated Pest Management
Ultimately, if control against A. fulica is to be effective it will have to involve some form of integration of the above methods. Srivastava et al. (1985) reviewed the biology and management of A. fulica in India with sections on its cultural, chemical and biological control. They noted the ineffectiveness of predatory molluscs, or their susceptibility to molluscicides used against A. fulica. An integrated approach was recommended using an aqueous extract of diseased A. fulica sprayed onto the snails and their food plants, in conjunction with non-molluscan snail predators such as the millipede, Orthomorpha sp., and hermit crabs, Coenobita sp. An integrated approach is also recommended by the South Pacific Commission (Lambert, 1999) using chemical control by metaldehyde, and physical control using barriers of bare land around crops and collection after rain. The commission does not recommend the use of predatory snails as a control agent of A. fulica. Mead (1961), Raut and Barker (2002), and Fischer and Costa (2010) review the control (physical, chemical and biological) of A. fulica and other Achatinidae pests across Africa and other countries.
ReferencesTop of page
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Datasheet under review
ContributorsTop of page
16/10/13 Updated by:
Roberto E Vogler, Universidad Nacional de Misiones, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas Químicas y Naturales, Departamento de Biología, Rivadavia 2370, N3300LDX, Posadas, Argentina
Ariel A Beltramino, Universidad Nacional de La Plata, Facultad de Ciencias Naturales y Museo, División Zoología Invertebrados, Paseo del Bosque S/N, B1900FWA, La Plata, Argentina
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