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The aliZone.com - Achatina Reticulata
The aliZone.com
Achatina Reticulata

Snails!


A snail is a snail right?

Wrong! Take us humans for example. 'Most' of us are born with two arms, two legs, a face with two eyes, two ears, a nose and a mouth. But that doesn't mean we're all the same! So just because snails have a fleshy body, a shell on their backs and tentacles, it doesn't mean they are all the same either! Like Humans, snails are found in every country on Earth. As well as snails that live on land, there are snails that live in the sea, and others that live in rivers and lakes. I'd suggest that almost wherever you go on our planet there's a snail somewhere near you!


Helix Aspersa (Adult) - Common Brown Garden Snail (image: thealizone.com)


What does 'GALS' mean?

GALS is an acronym for Giant African Land Snail, and many people keep GALS as pets. There are around 200 species of GALS (Achatinidae) living in Sub-Saharan Africa, and there are many differences between them. Some give birth to live young, others lay eggs, there are different shell shapes, colours, skin colour, size, etc. When someone says they keep GALS, my first question would be which type? Some websites are misleading as they talk about GALS as if there's only one type.


Achatina Fulica adult GALS next to a cigarette packet (image: Yurii Yashin)


What do the words 'Achatina Reticulata' mean?

'Achatina Reticulata' is the name of one type of GALS. The name is in Latin, as is the proper name for most living creatures and plants. To get to the meaning behind these words, let's start with how GALS are classified.

The proper name for GALS is 'Achitinidae' which comes from the Greek word 'agate'. Agate is a type of rock which has colourful band of colours. The Achitinidae family of snails is broken down into 13 different types (or Genus), the main ones being Achatina, Archachatina, and Limicolaria. There are differences between the Genera, for example, Achatina GALS have a pointed apex to their shells, whilst Archachatina have a blunter apex. Archachatina also have V shape to their foot, whilst most Achatina don't. Furthermore, Achatina snails lay many hundreds of small eggs at a time, while Archachatina only lay a dozen or so larger eggs. Unless you know exactly what to look for, it's difficult to tell some species of snails from others, and even the experts sometimes can't agree!

So, 'Achatina' is one type, or genus, of Achitinidae. It's estimated that there are many dozens of species of Achatina, nobody really knows for sure! The more common species of Achatina are Achatina Achatina, Achatina Fulica, Achatina Immaculata, Achatina Iredalei (who give birth to live babies rather than eggs!) and Achatina Reticulata. It doesn't stop there though! There's many subspecies as well, and then there are Albino versions, either albino skinned, or, more rarely, albino shelled.

As for the word 'Reticulata', this translates into English as 'reticulated'. When something is 'reticulated' it means that it has ridges or a net-like texture of some kind. A reticulated shell therefore has deep ridges rather than being smooth.

Ok then, tell me all about Achatina Reticulata Snails. . .

Achatina Reticulata snails (commonly known as Retiís or Retics) are found only in Zanzibar, a small island just a few degrees south of the equator off the East Coast of Africa. Politically, Zanzibar is part of Tanzania, and is famous for being the birth place of Freddie Mercury, lead singer of the pop group 'Queen'.


Albino Achatina Reticulata Juveniles (image: www.exoticpetsuk.com)



Achatina Reticulata Adult (image: www.exoticpetsuk.com)


Looking at the two pictures above, these juveniles and adults appear totally different! The difference in skin tone is accounted for by the fact that the juveniles in the first picture are Albinos (Their skin lacks any pigment). As for the difference in shell colours, well, snail shells are made up of three layers, an inner layer called the "Nacra", a thick inorganic middle layer made of Calcium Carbonate, and a thin organic outer layer called the "Periostracum". The Inner layer is most visible as 'mother of pearl' in sea snails and other molluscs such as mussels. In Retis the outer layer is very soft and wears away easily as the snails grow up, so the whiteness you can see in the adults shell is the middle calcium layer where the outer layer has worn away.