Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Giant Apple Snail

A key part of the Floridial Floridianity of Florida is that sooner or later, everyone and everything makes its way down here, and once here, it thrives. It's a place where everything that can happen does, and must. Take for example the Giant Apple Snail, Pomacea maculata, which grows at least twice the size of a traditional apple snail - sometimes larger than a softball.

In the Florida Everglades, there's an endangered bird called the Snail Kite which feeds exclusively on snails and is suddenly experiencing a swift resurgence in their population. "That's good," you might say, and "No, that's bad," I might reply, and "Well, how come?" you might rejoin. Because this giant invasive species of mollusk is rapidly spreading like wildfire (a metaphor not usually applied to snails) in the Sunshine State, and though it gives the Kites a virtual all-you-can-eat buffet, it's throwing the ecosystem way out of whack. As noted on Al Jazeera America today:

Several species of the South American snails were first observed in the late 1980s, but in the last two decades the mega-mollusk maculata outproduced all the others and spread rapidly. It’s suspected that these baseball-sized creatures were unwanted aquarium pets released near the Miami and West Palm Beach canals. Now these meatier snails, which are about twice the size of the native apple snail, are ensconced in lakes and canals from northern Florida to as far south as Everglades National Park. At the same time as this new species is spreading, the native apple snail population is shrinking. The nomadic snail kites have recognized the heftier replacement and followed the food source.

There are scary clues about what these big mollusks can do in small marsh areas. The exotic snails decimated plant life near lakes and ponds near Tallahassee.

According to Snailbusters, the giant apple snail is edible and can be used in Gumbo, but they must be very thoroughly cooked because, being freshwater creatures, they can harbor parasites and bacteria harmful to humans - like another thriving new icky thing, that brain-eating amoeba, perhaps?

Some are recommending that if you see clusters of their giant bubblegum pink eggs, you should destroy them, but that ain't my style. Who am I to impinge on their survival and success? I leave it to fate and nature how it's all gonna come out in the wash.

No comments:

Post a Comment