FunNature & AnimalThis giant snail spits out parasites that can affect...

This giant snail spits out parasites that can affect the human brain

There are about 43,000 living species of snails. Three of them have become invasive pests in China, Colombia, India, Barbados, Hawaii, and many other corners of the world. Native to East Africa, snails can cause a lot of damage when introduced to foreign habitats.

The giant African snail ( Lissachatina fulica ) has an amazing ability to multiply thanks to its hermaphroditism. It is one of the largest snails in the world, and despite being native to East Africa, it has been introduced to many other places. Although the giant African land snail evolved in tropical climates, it has learned to thrive in more temperate areas and may even hibernate or estivate during cooler or drier months. And it never stops growing. Although its growth rate slows down as it ages. It will continue to grow until the time of death arrives.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, that’s “about the size of an average adult [human] fist.”

India’s giant African land snail problem began in 1847. Some of the snails were probably hitchhikers who entered the subcontinent in shipments of timber. Others received help from exotic animal lovers who would have helped invade the Indian state of Bihar during the 1960s. They arrived in Florida in 1966.

danger to humans

However, this giant snail is not only striking because it is a dangerous invasive species . It is also for human beings. Apart from the loss of fauna and flora caused by this species, their slimes are no less threatening. Like most land snails, it leaves a trail of slime as it moves to protect it as it travels over rough terrain. The slime of this snail includes a wide range of parasites and one of them, the rat lungworm ( Angiostrongylus cantonensis ), can affect the human central nervous system and cause meningitis, as well as other diseases that can be lethal to humans.

Adult worms live and reproduce inside common rat species, such as black, brown, and cotton rats. The larvae of the worm end up in the poop of the host mammal and are eventually excreted. The feces are then consumed by scavenging snails. If one of the worm-bearing snails is later eaten by a rodent, the cycle continues.

The authorities state that if we have these snails nearby, we should never touch them directly. Contact must be made with disposable gloves so as not to come into contact with the snail slime.

This snail is active at night and sleeps during the day after burrowing into the ground. Like all snails that have a shell, it uses it as a protective shield. The brown tones of the shell also help it to camouflage.


It is crucial to avoid overpopulation

They can eat more than 500 types of plants, including lichens, algae, and fungi. They may be predominantly herbivorous, but their shells need a constant supply of calcium to grow. To achieve this, the snails feed on bones, eggshells, oyster shells and the shells of other snails. They will even eat human-made sources of calcium like stucco, concrete, and paint. One of the main problems associated with this snail is its ability to reproduce. It can lay up to 1,200 eggs each year, which is why they can spread so quickly. This, together with their voracious diet , makes them true destroyers of vegetation.

Reference: The invasive giant African snail Lissachatina fulica as natural intermediate host of Aelurostrongylus abstrusus, Angiostrongylus vasorum, Troglostrongylus brevior, and Crenosoma vulpis in Colombia. PloS One.

Felipe Penagos-Tabares,
Malin K. Lange,
Juan Velez,
Jörg Hirzmann,
Jesed Gutiérrez-Arboleda,
Anja Taubert,
Carlos Hermosilla,
Jenny J. Chaparro Gutiérrez Published: April 19, 2019

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