Giant land snail, Achatina achatina
When walking through the bush on Kaingo Private Game Reserve, we sometime see this rather remarkable mollusc, sometimes only the shell of them. The African giant land snail is one of the largest terrestrial snail species on earth; they can grow up to 20cm long; and have a very wide tolerance for habitat and food resources. They are thought to eat over 500 species of plant, and will eat bone and soil to complement their calcium intake.
The giant land snail can weigh as much as 32 grams, and is eaten by some tribes. With a bit of garlic and a slice of melba toast maybe…
Their reproduction habits are fascinating. Like many molluscs, they are hermaphrodites, the sexual organs of both males and females being present. This means that they can self-fertilise, although this does not happen often. After a brief courtship, the mating snails will copulate by attaching their radula (mouths) and then transferring eggs and sperm to the other partner. They can lay anywhere between 200 and 500 eggs per mating!
The African land snail is regarded as an invasive species world over. They are tolerant of heat and drought, and can survive cold spells by hibernation and hot, dry spells by a method called evisication. This allows them to barely stay alive for up to 3 years under drought conditions.
Their natural colouring is brown and caramel, streaked across the shell. Sometimes, after a dry spell, the shell will turn white like our specimen on the photograph.
On your next visit to Kaingo, look out for this rather fascinating snail. At least it will not run away from the camera!
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Although you may feel alone in this world, misunderstood and undervalued, we are eternally grateful for your devotion to us. As husbands, children, and mates we may not always have the words and means to convey our feelings of gratitude to you, but rest assured that you are in our hearts, minds and lives every step of the way.
Here are a few other dedicated mothers that you may not know about:
Earwigs: yes, those smelly, ugly night dwellers have another side too! The earwig mother will lay her eggs, and then guard and nurture them until they hatch. During this time, she will not eat much, sometimes only the shells of hatched eggs will be eaten. She nurtures the little larvae until the second moult, when they can look after themselves.
Wolf spiders: calling a wolf spider beautiful is a matter of contention. Most of you will disagree with my statement until you realise that beauty in maybe under the skin. The mother wolf spider will carry her eggs and later her spider lings on her back, until they are old enough to fend for themselves.
Nursing dung beetle: rolling around dung every day does not sound very romantic, does it. This dung beetle will however care for her eggs after they hatched feeding and nurturing them until they are self-sufficient.
Mouthbrooders: this family of fish, the Hemichromis, will either defend their nest with their lives, or take turns with their male partner to guard the fry until they are self-sufficient. The name ‘mouthbrooder’ comes from the habit of opening the mouth, ‘swallowing’ their own fry and then darting away from danger. The fry is then spat out alive and well when danger have passed.
Scorpions: Scorpions are great mothers! Some species will carry their eggs for up to a year before they hatch. After hatching, the baby scorpions (see through at this stage) will climb onto the females back. They then hitch a ride until their first or second moult, depending on the species. Further mothering ensures that the little ones knows how to hunt and become fully adult scorpions.
So there you go! Creepy crawlies with a heart of gold caring for their offspring.
Happy Mothers Day!!!
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