Florida’s Largest Predatory Air-Breathing Land Snail
The pace of life typically slows in July. For the youth, the exhilaration of freedom from the daily schooling grind has passed into a leisure lull which requires forethought only about the next snack.
For most air conditioner acclimated adults, it is all about the thermometer readings and the rain. The 90 plus degree readings produce a seasonal lethargy, except when going to the mailbox for the much dreaded power bill.
Rain is a concern as it affects the lawn and landscape. If it rains then the grass has to be mowed, in the sweltering humidity. If it does not rain, then the hoses and sprinklers have to be positioned in the sweltering slightly lower humidity.
Fitting in with the reduced speed of the season, one native species takes full advantage of summer lassitude to dine on garden and landscape pest. The rosy wolf snail, sometimes known as the cannibal snail, is Florida‘s largest predatory air-breathing land snail.
Euglandina rosea, as it is scientifically known, has the ability to breathe air with a pallial lung instead of the more commonly occurring gill or gills in marine gastropods. This simple lung is found in many terrestrial snails and slugs, but restricts their life to an existence above the waterline.
The Cannibal Snail
As a predator the rosy wolf snail needs speed to pursue its quarry, and it has it. Capable of reaching speeds of approximately 19 miles per hour, it far exceeds the sluggish pace of most of its prospective meals.
Naturally, this blinding velocity comes only in exceptionally short burst. Other native snails and slugs progress at, well, a snail’s pace.
Speed aside this hunter uses specific tactics for finding its meals. This predator employs the same technique for tracking its quarry as gardeners do for hunting down the snails which damage landscape plants.
Slime trails lead the rosy wolf snail those unlucky, and slower, species which serve as sustenance. It has been estimated following these trails consumes more than 80 percent of their entire lives.
Given the choice, the rosy wolf snail prefers to eat smaller snails because it is quicker and easier to consume them. The smaller species of prey are usually ingested whole, hence its lesser used nickname “the cannibal snail”.
Light Grey or Brown Snail
The rosy wolf snail is easy to recognize in the wild. The snail has a light grey or brown body and the shell color is brownish-pink. The shell is tapered at both ends and can grow to almost three inches, but with the snail extended the length can reach four inches.
This land snail lives about two years on average. It reaches maturity at four to 16 months depending on several environmental factors, including enough slow little snails to eat.
At maturity adults will lay 25 to 35 eggs in a shallow hole or depression in the soil. It takes 30 to 40 days for these to hatch and begin the hunt for their victims.
As with most species in the wild, the hunter becomes the hunted when the right larger species appears on the scene. For the rosy wolf snail it can be rats and other omnivorous mammals which inhabit the same environment.
Even though it is fast for a snail, the rosy wolf snail is not fast enough to avoid becoming a snack of the day.
To learn more about north Florida’s snails, contact the local UF/IFAS County Extension Office. Click here for contact information.