South American channeled apple snail discovered in Georgia

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Common variety of snail (not an apple snail)

The American state of Georgia faces a new problem as wildlife officials discovered the South American channeled apple snail along the Alabaha River in Pierce County last month. Similar snails have been seen in four American states, including at least nine Florida counties, and Indonesia.

Apple snails (those of the ampullariidae family) are tropical and sub-tropical freshwater snails. They are named for their round shell, which is apple shaped. The channeled apple snail (Pomacea canaliculata) has a yellow-to-brown shell that may grow to the size of a baseball. Unlike many other freshwater gastropods, Apple Snails have both a lung and a gill. This allows them to live even in oxygen-poor waters. Outside of their natural habitat of South America, the snails have no natural enemies. As they reproduce quickly and feed on aquatic plants, which provide food and shelter for native species, they can be devastating to their new environment.

"This discovery is one of particular interest because of the invasive nature of the species," assistant chief of DNR's Non-game Wildlife and Natural Heritage Section Jon Ambrose told the AP. "Because of the array of problems that can arise from releasing non-native species into Georgia's waters, we want to stress that this is not a responsible practice for pet owners."

DNR biologists searched the site of the discovery again last weekend. Although no more channeled apple snails were found, they may return for a more elaborate search. The Georgia winter, more severe than Florida´s, may put a stop to the threat.