The awesome truth about snails

02:39, Jun 25 2012

New Zealand is home to some pretty amazing giant land snails...

Okaaay, maybe not quite that giant, but still pretty awesome.

I get grumpy when I hear people whingeing about our snails. It's that whole cute is king thing again.

Snails in New Zealand get a bum rap. Probably because when we hear "snails", we immediately think of those ones that get stuck into our lettuces and crawl up the outside of our houses. Boring. Right?

Wrong! New Zealand snails are a whole other deal altogether. For starters, some of our largest snails (like the kauri snails in the North Island and the Powelliphanta snails in the South Island), can grow to be about the size of a hamburger. Seriously. That is pretty cool. They have beautiful, ornate shells that come in a range of colours and patterns. Probably my favourite ever thing about our giant land snails is that they don't mince about nibbling on lettuce leaves like that garden-snail variety. Our snails come out at night and suck worms out of the soil like spaghetti!

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Have a look at this video (the action happens at 19 seconds) for an incredible view of a giant land snail snacking in action.

 

In New Zealand, snails have been the centre of controversy. The biggest problem so far has been the Powelliphanta augustus, who just happened to have evolved to live on top of a massive coal seam on the West Coast. Their habitat (which was Mt Augustus, now a very large hole) was destroyed, and 6000 snails were relegated to a fridge in Hokitika. In November last year, a technical fault with a thermostat killed 800 of them.

This situation is at the crux of many conservation issues in New Zealand. Where do you draw the line? What if there were kakapo living up there that had evolved to live nowhere else? Would we still dig it up? Also, what did you think of that video? Amazing eh? Do you have kauri snails or Powelliphanta snails at home?

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