Sunday, October 21, 2007

Giant Snails Once a Delicacy, Now Too Many

The giant African snail once brought to Brazil to be used in the gourmet restaurants is now a nuisance in the country. The mollusk is 8 inches long and can weigh more than 1 pound is now an invasive species in Brazil and can be found in almost every state. Experts say that eradication would almost be impossible because of its vast success.

It was originally brought to Brazil as a substitute for the common garden snail used for escargot but has proven to be notorious. At fairs people would sell kits and instructions on how to raise them since they had so many more benefits in comparison to the garden snail. The thin group of people that ate escargot were not willing to make the substitute since it had a different texture, taste and shady origin. The "snail farmers" were left with many unwanted snails in their backyards. It has been found that it is a potential vector for several pathogens and an intermediate host for worms that can cause parasitic diseases to humans. Some of the worms include one that cause meningitis and in extreme cases can lead to blindness and paralysis. The two cases of meningitis in the state of Espíritu Santo were both cause from the worm that infects the African giant snail.

The snail has already become part of the food chain and there has been an increase in rats and snakes that eat the snails. The snails have also started competing with the native species which are vulnerable to losing habitat to the prodigious invader. A control plan has been started but it includes collecting the snails by hand and destroying the shells which requires serious commitment from the Brazilians. The snails also hide underground making the catching more difficult. Their optimal environment is at night especially when it rains. These snails have become a terrible nuisance and an invasive pest.

Posted by Carmen Arsuaga (5)


At 7:19 PM, Blogger PWH said...

I never knew that a slug would be a nuisance in any country. It was very disturbing to hear that they can cause paralysis and other very serious, permanent problems with the human body. I never ate escargot or ever thought of the fact of trying it but i do not get why anyone would ever want to make more of these slimy creatures. What i also learned by reading Carmen's post was that there are so many more of these snails out there than i thought. This kind of makes me scared to want to go outside and even be around the nature. Not really...but almost.
Valerie Hines

At 10:30 PM, Blogger PWH said...

This is an interesting blog that shows how the introduction of just one foreign organism can alter a whole ecosystem. It would be interesting to give other examples of how this has happened in other areas and the long term effects that resulted.

At 10:30 PM, Blogger PWH said...

last comment from Christina Breed - sorry!

At 10:44 PM, Blogger PWH said...

It's really unfortunate to hear that this particular snail species is starting to cause problems in the natural environment of Brazil. However it is a problem that happens often within our world. In high school I remember learning about the drastic decline of the American Chestnut Tree and how a fungus from Japanese trees (they were being imported into the US at the time) were causing their demise. I don't remember why the US was importing the trees from Japan but similar to the situation in Brazil, somebody suffered. Fortunately, the fungus of the trees from Japan didn't affect humans.

Posted by Luzviminda Maurillo

At 9:27 PM, Blogger PWH said...

This is some heavy news. I am amazed that these giant African snails could take over like that. I didn't even know snails hid underground. Also I feel that because of the infected snails, this epidemic is a serious problem. Also because all the animals have new prey, it will affect the food chain. It would be interesting to hear more about this. Good article, well written.

Harvmit Huang

At 9:55 PM, Blogger Dave said...

This new snail epidemic reminds me of the kudzu takeover we are having in the southern US. People brought the plant over from Japan to use as an erosion barrier, and now it has exploded all over, sometimes seen taking over entire (abandoned) houses and yards. The stuff grows about a foot per day!

Posted by Dave Sokolowski

At 10:40 AM, Blogger PWH said...

It is terrible that the snail become the potential vector for pathogens and host for worms that cause parasitic disease. If we eat it, do we get disease from them? And now if they want to kill the snails, they'd better have more rats and snake to help to the keep the number of snails down. I think it is terrible that how the snails change from food to pest now.

Posted by Xuni Li (5)


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