The Rosy Wolf Snail, also known as the Cannibal Snail, is a large member of the family Spiraxidae. It has a delicate pink shell which belies its carnivorous appetite and ruthless hunting behavior. Wolf Snails cruise along the ground at a speed about three times faster than other snails, searching for the scent of smaller gastropods with specialized chemical receptors called oral lappets. When they detect a slime trail, the follow it until they overtake the prey snail.
Once a Wolf Snail has found its prey, it uses its unusually long neck to hold the shell in place. It extends a long esophageal tube from its head and sticks it into the other snail's shell. This tube houses a dagger-like radula, which tears off chunks of flesh and pulls it into the Wolf Snail's stomach. If a snail's shell is too small to accommodate the radular tube, the Wolf Snail might swallow it whole. Wolf Snails have been known to go underwater to hunt pond snails.
The voracious feeding habits of Euglandina rosea make it a valuable addition to the environment. It keeps herbaceous snails in check and prevents damage to garden plants and shrubs. It is especially adept at destroying the pestilent invasive species Bradybaena similaris, which is responsible for a lot of horticultural damage along the Gulf Coast. If you see this snail, leave it alone so it can keep pest snails out of your yard and garden.
The Rosy Wolf Snail is quite common in the Southeastern United States, especially in Florida. In Texas, it can be found in dirt under a thin layer of detritus, usually in the shadow of a short bush or fallen palm fronds. These snails also like to sleep under dead wood or plywood. They tend to congregate in small numbers to mate on rainy nights, especially during the fall.
The Rosy Wolf Snail was officially described in 1821 by André Étienne d'Audebert de Férussac, a French naturalist who had fought in Napoleon's army.
In 1955, the Rosy Wolf Snail was intentionally imported to Hawaii to control the population of another introduced snail species, the Giant African Land Snail. The plan backfired catastrophically. Instead of targeting the pest snails, the Wolf Snails developed an appetite for the native island tree snails. This resulted in the extinction of over a hundred rare Hawaiian snail species. The Wolf Snail continues to wreak havoc in Hawaii today.
Juvenile E. rosea (15 mm)
Adult E. rosea (55 mm)
The Rosy Wolf Snail mating ritual. The two wolf snails swing their long, neck-like bodies around each other in a sort of dance. Eventually, one snail spears the other with a calciferous dart that injects a hormone which activates the female reproductive system. About a week after mating, the female lays a small clutch of eggs and her body returns to its normal, hermaphroditic status.
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