Sleuthing the Largest Snail

syrinxEarlier this year, I spent a few days tracking down the world’s largest snail. It is my own contribution to the Sizing Ocean Giants project. The Australian Trumpet shell, Syrinx araunus, is generally agreed to be the largest living snail. Shell lengths at the high end usually range around 2.5 feet (~0.75 meters). My goal had been to track down the largest known individual of the species. My first place to look was the Registry of World Record Size Shells that has origins back to 1964 and is the sort of Guinness Records of shell sizes. Noting a recent 2014 update, I ordered it and awaited patiently.

The longest specimen that is often repeated is based on the photo above from a 1982 issue of Hawaiian Shell News (Issue 7, pg. 12). The photograph shows club member Don Pisor and children holding the specimen, with the caption stating the specimen was 36 inches (91.4 cm).

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From Hawaiian Shell News 1982 No. 7

Syrinx araunus at 0.91 meters? From Hawaiian Shell News 1982 No. 7

However, the record holder for the largest S. aruanus ascribed by the Registry of World Record Size Shells places the maximum length at 72.2 cm. This specimen is also attributed to Don Pisor and was recorded in 1979. So I tracked down Don Pisor to chat on the phone.  I learned that these specimens are the same individual and the correct measurement is 72.2 cm. Indeed the specimen is currently housed in the Houston  Museum of Natural Science. A specimen sold online on 6/8/2011 through eBay UK was claimed to be 72.4 cm in length. But alas I was never able to confirm this length.

Dr. M (1798 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Additionally, Craig is obsessed with the size of things. Sometimes this translated into actually scientific research. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (http://deepseanews.com/), a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.