How scary are snails? Not very, you might think, unless you’re a cabbage. The largest land snail, the African giant land snail (Achatina achatina), reaches 15 inches. In the seas the Australian trumpet (Syrinx aruanus) can grow to over 35 inches and weighing 18kg. This is larger than the biggest known prehistoric snail, the Eocene sea snail Campanile giganteum (left), which had a shell of 23.6 inches.
With shell-less gastropods the black sea hare (Aplysia vaccaria) holds the record at 38.9 inches and a weight of 14kg. On land the the record is held by the keelback slug known as Limax cinereoniger, which can reach 12 inches and is found in much of Europe, including the UK.
Of course some gastropods are carnivores. The Florida rosy wolfsnail (Euglandina rosea) is a predatory species introduced to Taihiti to control giant land snails, also introduced by man, because they had become a pest. Instead of feeding on the land snails, the wolfsnails proceeded to devour the native Partula species, eating 51 of the 76 endemic snails into extinction. Now that’s scary!
In the folklore of southwest France the Lou-carcolh is a monster, man-eating snail. Its shell is as big as a hill and its mouth is surrounded by hairy, slimy tentacles (radula?) that it shoots out to capture its prey. It is a subterranean beast and drags its victims underground to eat them.
The French city of Hastingues is nick-named Carcolh because it is situated on a rounded hill. The men of Hastingues used to say to pretty girls "The carcolh will catch you!"