Liguus Tree Snail: Liguus fasciatus
Gorgeous and multicolored inhabitants of tropical hardwood
hammocks, tree snails, of the genus Liguus, are known as "living
jewels." They are two to three inches long, and are found only in
extreme southern Florida and the Florida Keys. Fifty-two native
color varieties exist, ranging from white to almost black, wrapped
in whorls of emerald green, chestnut, orange, yellow or pink.
During the dry season, they go into a kind of hibernation called
estivation, fastening themselves to a branch and sealing their
shells with mucus to prevent drying out. Rainwater softens this
seal and out they come. If they are ripped from a branch during dry
season, they will dry out and die.
Tree snails feed on algae and fungus scraped from smooth-barked
trees, such as wild tamarind, pigeon plum, myrsine and bustic. They
slide along the bark on a thin layer of mucus secreted from their
large foot. Although found throughout the year, they are most
active during the rainy season, from May through September,
especially after a heavy rain.
Tree snails mate during the late summer rains, and lay pea-sized
pearlescent eggs in nests at the base of trees. The eggs remain in
the nest until the following rainy season when the baby snails,
known as "buttons," emerge and crawl up the tree.
The tree snail is listed as a species of special concern in
Florida. They are threatened by illegal collection of their shells,
pesticide spraying and destruction of habitat. If you come across
these delicate jewels of the hammock, please do not disturb