The Turkish Snail

Helix lucorum Linnaeus 1758

 
Juvenile Turkish snail (Helix lucorum).  [RN]

The Turkish snail (Helix lucorum), as its name already states, originates from the Black Sea region and adjacent Asia Minor, today's western and central Turkey.

With a shell diameter of between 30 and 60 mm (1.2 to 2.4 in.) the Turkish snail usually is significantly larger than the Roman snail (Helix pomatia), common in Central Europe. The actual final size of a Turkish snail is largely dependent on the temperature in its environment.


Turkish snail (Helix lucorum), light and dark variety. [RN].
 

The form of a Helix lucorum shell is similar to that of Helix pomatia: It is globular with a depressed spire and largely rounded whorls. The shell walls are thick and the surface is irregularly striped. Very different from Helix pomatia, however, is the shell colour of Helix lucorum: Broad red-brown stripes or better bands, go along the whorls. Those bands may melt together, so that little can be seen of the shell's whitish ground colour.

In very lightly coloured shell specimens, the lateral discontinuities ("growth stripes") can be more prominent, so the shell looks laterally striped or chequered.

Determination by shell characters: The Turkish Snail (Helix lucorum).

Also different from a Roman snail is the form of a Turkish snail's shell aperture: It looks oblique and has a thickened aperture rim. The apertural lip is reddish or brownish in colour.

The Turkish snail's natural habitat are bushes, light forests and cultivated areas.

 
Juvenile Turkish snail (Helix lucorum).  [RN]

In nature, it is only active during night and after strong rains. The frequent dry periods it endures aestivating dug into the ground.

The distribution area of Helix lucorum stretches from the Eastern Black Sea region through Asia Minor (see above), the central Balkan peninsula (Southern Romania, Bulgaria and Thrace (in North-eastern Greece) as far as Albania) until Italy west of the Apennine.

While the species does not occur in Germany, it has been introduced in Austria, south of Vienna.

In Southern France and on the Iberian peninsula, the species has been introduced in some places. This might be because, after Helix pomatia, Helix lucorum is the commercially second most important snail species, of which (according to Falkner, 1990) more than 6000 tonnes are sold annually. But Helix lucorum has never been cultivated in helicicultures, but is always collected from nature. In delicatessen shops here in Central Europe, sometimes cultivated Roman snails (Helix pomatia) are sold in the more colourful shells of Helix lucorum.

In South-western France (Départements Aude, Aveyron, Haute-Garonne etc.) Helix lucorum apparently is also multiplying strongly in nature, where in some areas it seems to have taken the place of the indigenous brown garden snail (Cornu aspersum) even displacing it. Helix lucorum specimens have been found with shells nearly 60 mm large.

Céline Samperez-Bedos: "L'Attaque des Escargot Géants". La Dépeche, Carcassonne. Accessed: 24.05.2011.

In 2010, the species was also described from Le Vesinet, a Western suburb of Paris. It is also assumed that Helix lucorum is going to appear in other places in France and Europe, where those snails are traded.

Mienis, H. K.; Rittner, O. (2010): On the presence of Helix lucorum Linnaeus, 1758 (Mollusca, Gastropoda, Helicidae) in Le Vesinet, a western suburb of Paris. MalaCo, 6 : 266-267 (Link).

Also on Helix lucorum:

A snail on a knife's edge: An experiment with Helix lucorum.
An extensible snail: A picture series with Helix lucorum.

Literature:

Falkner, G.: "Binnenmollusken" (nonmarine mollusks), in: Fechter, R. and Falkner, G.: "Weichtiere" (mollusks), Munich, 1990, p. 246 f.