This is the Giant African Land Snail (scientific name: Lissachatina fulica) which I encountered while conducting research on the island of Mo’orea in French Polynesia. They can grow up to 8 inches (see second pic for comparison of size next to my hand) and unfortunately these pesky buggers are one of the most invasive species in the world. Their presence in French Polynesia is part of sad history of species introductions and a failed biological control program. Long story short: this species was introduced for food purposes but was quickly recognized to be an aggressive pest on local crops, sooo the thought was to introduce another cannibalistic snail in the 80s, the Rosy Wolfsnail, in hopes that it would “control” the pest snails. This didn’t work too well…and even worse, the Rosy Wolfsnail started going after the native species of land snails in French Polynesia. Now out of approximately 150 native species throughout the Pacific Islands, over 50 are completely extinct, 11 exist only in captivity, just 5 exist in the wild in French Polynesia and most remaining species throughout the Pacific are critically endangered. This group of tropical land snails were once an incredible example of genetic variation among species and in fact were among the first animals to be studied in the wild to understand speciation (the process of how new species arise). Now sadly they are a devastating example of the dangers of invasive and introduced species. Invasive species are an ever increasing issue in our world today—from Cane Toads, to Zebra Mussels, to Bark Beetles—the impact they can have on foreign ecosystems can be truly catastrophic.
The good news is that there are many simple things you can do to prevent the further spread of invasive species!
#invasivespecies #wilflifeconservation #endextinction