Maputaland cannibal snail (Natalina wesseliana)

Also known as: Tongaland cannibal snail
GenusNatalina (1)
SizeShell diameter: up to 70 mm (2)

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2006 (1).

Named for their snail-eating habits (2) (3), cannibal snails (Rhytididae) feed using a rasping tongue-like structure known as a radula, which bears long, curved teeth, a specialisation for their carnivorous diet (4). The orange-brown body of the Maputaland cannibal snail is large and broad, and carries a thin brown shell with rapidly expanding whorls and a large opening (2).

Ranges from central Zululand north to Maputo in southern Mozambique, primarily near the coast (2).

This species is known from dune, coastal lowland and scarp forest, but probably also occurs in other wooded habitats (2).

Very little has been documented on this snail’s biology and behaviour, which remain poorly understood. Like other cannibal snails, this species is carnivorous, feeding on other molluscs and probably also earthworms (2) (4).

The Maputaland cannibal is threatened by ongoing habitat loss and degradation as a result of conversion to agricultural land, wood plantations and mining (2), as well as ever increasing pressure from local communities on the few remaining pristine habitats (5).

There are currently no conservation measures specifically targeting this species, although it is known to occur in conservation areas (Hluhluwe-Imfolosi Game Reserve and the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park) (5).

For more information on the Maputaland cannibal snail see:

Authenticated (13/07/2006) by Dr. Dai G. Herbert, Chief Curator: Mollusca, Natal Museum, and member of the IUCN/SSC Southern African Invertebrate, and Mollusc Specialist Groups.

  1. IUCN Red List (December, 2009)