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).


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.