Monday, November 5, 2012

The snail coated with ‘chocolate’

The red banded snail, or as it is sometimes known the chocolate-banded snail, is a large land snail. 
It belongs to a group of land snails and slugs known as the pulmonates. These are characterised by having a ‘lung’. Other molluscs have gills which allow them to take exchange gasses with the surroundings from air or water that flows over them. 
Pulmonates, on the other hand, have lost their gills and ‘breath’ air or water through a hole known as a pneumostome, into a cavity which functions as a lung. In some species the pneumostome remains permanently open while in others, such as in the common slug, it can be seen opening and closing rhythmically.
This species is very common especially in open spaces such as garigue. In Maltese it is known as għakrux mara which means female għakrux. It belongs to the Helicidae family in which we also find other common species such as the edible snail which is known in Maltese as għakrux raġel (male għakrux). This shows that in former times these two species were believed to be the male and female of the same species.
The red banded snail is mainly a Mediterranean species but can be found as far east as Crimea. It has also been introduced in other parts of the world and is now found in south eastern Australia
In 2006 it was found in London. It has also been found in Germany, Hungary and in the United States of America although it is not yet known whether it has managed to establish itself permanently in these countries.
This species, like other members of its family, is edible and is in fact collected and sold for food in parts of the Mediterranean particularly in Italy and Greece. In Malta although it was believed to be the female of the edible snail, which is collected in large numbers, it is believed to be inedible and is not collected. 

This article was published in The Times on 24.10.2012

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