Helix pomatia – the Roman Snail

Rare and edible are perhaps not the ideal attributes for a snail to ensure its personal longevity. This is the classic French escargot, Helix pomatia, also known as the Roman Snail, Escargot or Burgundy Snail. Luckily, where it has more culinary attraction on mainland Europe, it is farmed to produce the numbers required for gastronomic purposes. 
In our little patch of Hertfordshire it is reasonably common in the chalky grass banks, verges and fields, though it is in fact classified as rare in the UK and legally protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. This is Britain’s largest snail, though the fossil record gives up no specimens, suggesting a ‘recent’ introduction probably by the Romans who also brought the rabbit to England as an easily manageable and available food source.
Distribution information is patchy and a consolidated map of distribution shows a liking for the geography, geology and environment of south and south-east England. 
Helix Pomatia distribution (1990-98)
It would  be interesting to gather locations of any UK sightings for consolidation. This can be done on a site like inaturalist.org, or by posting a sighting as a comment here, along with a postcode which I can then transfer onto inaturalist or a map.#
I’ll look to share the other molluscs of the Badger’s Eye patch, but for now, thanks to Skye Wilkinson for the photo which inspired me to go digging for information in the first place.

Map Data Sources 

Mollusc (non-marine) data for Great Britain and Ireland – Conchological Society of Great Britain and Ireland; Invertebrate Site Register – England (via the NBN Gateway).

4 Comments

  1. Roman snails in abundance along footpath verge feeding on rotting vegetation today, 5/7/15, following recent very warm weather and heavy rain. Chalk downland area: White Hill bridleway W of Caterham, Surrey, between J7 and 6 of M25

  2. Thanks for posting the sighting.

  3. In my part of Surrey I’ve found an abundance of Helix pomatia Roman snails living and breeding in a quite delimited area along a fence between pasture and woodland; I find them in all weathers in the daytime, not usually moving freely but dug-in with most of the shell exposed, sometimes in pairs, mating.(this is in June – July) I only see fully-grown adults.Two questions: 1) Where are the immature, partly-grown, snails? 2) As they are so poorly concealed (I could have gathered two dozen today easily), and the woods are badgeropolis, why are they not predated by badgers, or indeed foxes or thrushes? I would have thought they’d make a very substantial dish for one of these predators, who certainiy eat slugs and/or smaller snails – and on the face of it appear very vulnerable. I don’t see any damaged empty shells, only whole ones, suggesting death is normally by natural causes. I haven’t been able to find any mention of predation (other than by Homo sap.) in any article on H pomatia on the net. Any sensible explanation would be most welcome

    • mark.wilkinson@pinnaculum.co.uk

      Hi Dick. Thanks for commenting. You raise very good questions, none of which I can answer with any confidence. Local to here there is a similar range of potential predators – hedgehogs too.
      When I have a moment I will ddig through some books and the web and see if we can out. The answer will be out there somewhere. Let me know if you crack the answer before me!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.