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Australia’s fascinating land snails

By Dr John Stanisic OAM (‘The Snail Whisperer’), 6 July 2022

Australia has many amazing land snails. There are currently about 1,500 described species and another 1,000 waiting to be named. Snails have a full shell and slugs have no external shell, but there are also semi-slugs, which have a half shell! Many species live in forests in the wetter areas of the continent but some also inhabit rocky outcrops in the seasonally dry Kimberley and the arid Red Centre.

Opalescent pendant-snail (Leptopoma perlucida)

This tree-dwelling snail is from the Wet Tropics and Cape York Peninsula of northern Queensland. It has an operculum (visible on the back of the foot) which is a trapdoor that closes the mouth of the snail’s shell. Australia has about 100 species of operculate snails.

Photo: Neil Hewett

Harriett’s carnivorous snail (Austrorhytida harriettae)

A carnivorous land snail from mid-eastern New South Wales. Carnivorous land snails feed on earthworms and animals that live in leaf litter, including other snails! They have specialised dagger-like teeth for tearing flesh. The long neck is a feature that enables the snail to enter the shells of their prey.

Photo: John Stanisic

Grey-blotched semi-slug (Fastosarion griseola)

A semi-slug from south-eastern Queensland. Semi-slugs have a reduced shell that may be ear-shaped or plate-like that sits on the back of the animal. The flaps of tissue that cover the shell are called ‘accessory breathing surfaces’, and they absorb oxygen directly from the air.

Photo: John Stanisic

Red-triangle slug (Triboniophorus graeffei)

One of only a handful of native slug species. It comes in a range of colours, including white, green, orange and red. The golden form comes from the Border Ranges of south-eastern Queensland. The red-triangle slug typically feeds on algae and other micro-organisms growing on rocks and the trunks of trees. 

Photo: John Stanisic

Mitchell’s rainforest snail (Thersites mitchellae)

A critically endangered land snail from rainforests in north-eastern New South Wales. The snail’s habitat has been largely destroyed by clearing for farming and urban development. This species is one of many native land snails that face a precarious future.

Photo: John Stanisic

If you enjoyed this article…

Dr John Stanisic is one of the authors of A Guide to Land Snails of Australia. Check out this book to trek through some of Australia’s spectacular regional landscapes and learn about the snails that call these areas home. This book is available to purchase on the CSIRO Publishing website and from all good bookstores.

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  1. So beautiful! And diverse.


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