Helix pomatia, common names the Roman snail, Burgundy snail, edible snail or escargot, is a species of large, edible, air-breathing land snail, a pulmonate gastropod terrestrial mollusc in the family Helicidae.
It is one of Europe's biggest species of land snail.
Distribution of Helix pomatia includes:
The shell is creamy white to light brownish, often with indistinct brown colour bands. The shell has five to six whorls. The aperture is large. The apertural margin is white and slightly reflected in adult snails. The umbilicus is narrow and partly covered by the reflected columellar margin.
In southeastern Europe, H. pomatia lives in forests, open habitats, gardens, vineyards, especially along rivers, confined to calcareous substrate. In central Europe, it occurs in open forests and shrubland on calcareous substrate. It prefers high humidity and lower temperatures, and needs loose soil for burrowing to hibernate and lay its eggs. It lives up to 2100 m above sea level in the Alps, but usually below 2000 m. In the south of England, it is restricted to undisturbed grassy or bushy wastelands, usually not in gardens; it has a low reproduction rate and low powers of dispersal.
Average distance of migration reaches 3.5–6.0 m.
Reproductive system of Helix pomatia.
A pair of H. pomatia in courtship, shortly before mating.
Drawing of head of mating H. pomatia with everted penis and dart sac shooting a love dart.
Drawing of H. pomatia laying eggs.
Eggs are laid in June and July, in clutches of 40–65 eggs. The size of the egg is 5.5–6.5 mm or 8.6 × 7.2 mm. Juveniles hatch after three to four weeks, and may consume their siblings under unfavourable climate conditions. Maturity is reached after two to five years. The life span is up to 20 years, but snails die faster often because of drying in summer and freezing in winter. Ten-year-old individuals are probably not uncommon in natural populations. The maximum lifespan is 35 years.
This species is listed in IUCN Red List, and in European Red List of Non-marine Molluscs as Least Concern. Helix pomatia is threatened by continuous habitat destructions and drainage, usually less threatened by commercial collections. Many unsuccessful attempts have been made to establish the species in various parts of England, Scotland and Ireland; it only survived in natural habitats in southern England, and is threatened by intensive farming and habitat destruction. It is of lower concern in Switzerland and Austria, but many regions restrict commercial collecting.
The intestinal juice of Helix Pomatia contains large amounts of aryl, steroid and glucosinolate sulfatase activities. The sulfatases from the intestinal juice which have a broad specificity are commonly used as a hydrolyzing agent in analytical procedures like chromatography to prepare the sample for analysis.
Roman snails were eaten by both Ancient Greeks and Romans.
Nowadays these snails are especially popular in french cuisine. In the English language it is called by the French name escargot when used in cooking (escargot simply means 'snail').
Although this species is highly prized as a food, it is difficult to cultivate and rarely farmed commercially.
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