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First 'horntail snails' in United States captured in Florida

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Posted at 3:50 PM, Oct 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-01 15:51:03-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — An invasive snail species with "the potential to cause serious health implications,” has been found in South Florida, marking the first time the species has ever been seen in the United States.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) announced Thursday that they have positively identified the presence of the horntail snail (Macrochlamys indica) in Miami-Dade County.

The snail was discovered by a gastropod enthusiast in Coconut Grove who sent the unusual snail to the University of Florida for identification. Further investigation led officials to discover multiple breeding sites in Miami-Dade County.

“The horntail snail is an invasive pest with the potential to cause serious health implications for Floridians,” stated Commissioner Nikki Fried. “Our Division of Plant Industry and essential industry partners are continuing to monitor this threat and working towards a plan to stop the horntail snail’s spread into other areas of Florida.”

Currently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) and the FDACS Division of Plant Industry (DPI) are treating all properties within the affected areas.

They're also working to trace the origin and forward movement of the snail to stop the spread of the "significant pest"and protect Florida’s agriculture.

According to FDACS, the horntail snail is a well-known pest in India, and feeds on a wide variety of commercial crops, including lettuce, beans, yams, chrysanthemums, etc.

The horntail snail is named for the pointed fleshy protrusion (caudal horn) at the tip of its tail. When relaxed, the horntail snail has a flap of flesh that extends backward onto or around the shell, which differentiates it from other terrestrial snails in the state.

"They are voracious feeders, most active at night and after rainfall," officials wrote in a press release. "The snail prefers cool damp locations, so may be found under pots or in moist soil. During dry, hot weather, they may burrow in the ground."

Like other terrestrial snails in Florida, the horntail snail has the potential to be an intermediate host of rat lung worm, which can cause meningitis in humans. Gloves are advised when handling the snail.

Researchers are still working to gather further information about the horntail snail.

If you suspect you have found the horntail snail or you have questions and concerns, please contact the Division of Plant Industry at DPIHelpline@FreshFromFlorida.com or 1-888-397-1517.