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The Urban Scientist

The Urban Scientist

A hip hop maven blogs on urban ecology, evolutionary biology & diversity in the sciences

#DispatchesDNLee: Giant African Land Snails

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I see these magnificent shells littered on the ground - in the woods, on lawns, everywhere. It's the shell of the Giant African Land Snail. In Tanzania, they are native - living in terrestrial habitats or on land. But back in the United States they are an invasive species. Not only do they devour vegetation of most any type they also carry a parasite - rat lungworm, which can be picked up from their slime trails. The snails get the parasite from eating rat feces. Rat lungworm can cause meningitis Seeing that study rats and come across these snails all of the time, I'm feeling some kind of way about these snails (like I need some other weird disease to worry about getting from my rats)...but the shells are still big and pretty.

How big are they?

Well, if this fella had walked inside of my trap, then he would have surely tripped it closed and been stuck inside until I come along to free him.

How did they come to be a problem in the United States? Exotic (non-native) species can reach new areas a number of ways - by accident or deliberately. However, it seems like these snails were brought here deliberately. Some people like them as terrarium pets. I know that some snails are regarded as a delicacy (not sure about these species) but it's big enough to provide a hardly meal for something.

This blog post was inspired by Tracey Friley of OneBrownGirl.com and The Passport Party Project. She came across the National Geographic post about the snails invading Florida and tagged me in the post. And I was like "Hey, I see these all of the time". Now until June 3, 2013 Tracey is campaigning to get more young girls to get their very first passport. With enough daily votes, she can secure funds to secure 100 girls their very first passport. A passport means the world is open to you. And I hope these young ladies see science as one of those open doors. I couldn't do what I do without a passport. I'm lucky (blessed) to have a job that let's me travel the world. Who would have imagined -- a little brown girl from South Memphis, raised in a 3-bedroom/1 bath apartment with 4 generations under one roof, working class poor who dreamed that going to California or Florida would be a fantasy - now travels the globe....for SCIENCE! And you know what, one of those little girls might turn out to be a wildlife biologist - like me, traveling the world seeing all kinds of cool things. Join me in supporting this campaign. All it takes is a vote.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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