Pondoland cannibal snail (Natalina beyrichi)

GenusNatalina (1)
SizeShell diameter: up to 60 mm (2)

Classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List 2006 (1).

This South African snail belongs to a widespread family known as cannibal snails (Rhytididae), so named for their habit of feeding on other snails (3). These snails do not have jaws, but instead feed using a rasping tongue-like structure (radula) bearing long, curved teeth, a specialisation for their carnivorous diet (4). The Pondoland cannibal snail has a relatively flattened and visibly grooved spiral shell, which is yellow-ochre to olive-green in colour (2).

This South African endemic has an exceedingly narrow range, being known only from the Transkei region of the Eastern Cape (1) (5), from Mkambati Nature Reserve south to Dwesa Nature Reserve (2).

The Pondoland cannibal snail lives amongst the leaf-litter of coastal forests (2).

Very little has been documented on this snail’s biology and behaviour, which remain poorly understood, except for what little is known of its carnivorous diet (4). It has been noted that this snail is relatively common at localities where earthworms are also abundant, and it is believed that these comprise a significant proportion of the snail’s diet (2).

The Pondoland cannibal snail is threatened by habitat loss and degradation within its coastal range as a result of development for tourism (1) (2) and mining, which threatens to open up this remote area to the ravages of commerce (5). The restricted nature of its natural distribution, and limited habitat availability, mean that this species is particularly vulnerable to habitat transformation (2).

This critically endangered snail occurs within the Mkambati, Hluleka and Dwesa Nature Reserves, where its habitat is afforded some degree of protection for the time being (2) (5).

For more information on the Pondoland 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)