The awesome truth about snails

Last updated 08:30 25/06/2012

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

Dr Dolittle and the giant snail

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!

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?

Snail

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41 comments
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Niri Tacen   #1   09:20 am Jun 25 2012

That video is awesome! I've never seen a snail nom so fast.

What happened to Mt Augustus is shameful. What right do we have as a nation to call ourselves "green" when we allow that kind of crap to happen.

@Nick - do your job man, and embed that link!

Tim   #2   10:01 am Jun 25 2012

Powelliphanta are also found in the North Island.

Jim   #3   10:16 am Jun 25 2012

Invertebrates don't get any respect unless they taste good with garlic.

Juls   #4   10:34 am Jun 25 2012

OMG.... I had NO idea that any snail was carnivorous! That snail sucked that worm up lol. Think we better do a better job of protecting these amazing creatures.... Thanks for the video , education is the key !

Vicki   #5   10:41 am Jun 25 2012

That's an amazing snail! Thanks for sharing :)

gazza   #6   12:08 pm Jun 25 2012

I was aware of our carnivorous snails but that was still a pretty cool video.

I believe the snails have to be pretty large so they could eat our giant earthworms :)

people might find this site interesting: http://terranature.org/gigantism.htm

Paul   #7   12:17 pm Jun 25 2012

If you have any photos of the other Powelliphanta species then feel free to add them to the relevant Wikipedia article. Most of these are depressingly bare for such an iconic group: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Powelliphanta

Les   #8   12:25 pm Jun 25 2012

Snails - protect the species but also protect yourself from the snail. Rat lung worm (Angiostrongylus catonensis) is a parasite that mainly lives in rats and can infect snails and slugs that come into contact with infected rat faeces. People can be infected when they eat an infected snail or slug or the snail slime from unwash vegetables such as lettuce Although I am unaware of any cases in NZ the same cannot be said in Australia, Asia and Pacific Islands.

Fat Spatula   #9   12:41 pm Jun 25 2012

I like the idea of giant snails - Check out my image of Giant Snail about to sneak up and devour a donkey http://www.fat-spatula.com/?p=131

Lynley   #10   01:24 pm Jun 25 2012

Of the 6000 Powelliphanta snails brought down from Stockton, the majority have been relocated up there in a similar environment and are doing well. Of the ones being kept in a controlled environment, 800 did die when there was a thermostat problem, but the rest are doing well and now reproducing happily. The Powelliphanta snail is found throughout the Buller region right up to the Heaphy and can be found readily on Crown land which is undisturbed and they are not in any danger of becoming extinct


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