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:
- Germany – Listed as a specially protected species in annex 1 of the Bundesartenschutzverordnung.
- Czech Republic – least concern species (LC): Its conservation status in 2004–2006 is favourable (FV) in the report for the European commission in accordance with the Habitats Directive.
- In southwestern Bulgaria up to an altitude of more than 1600 m.
- Northern and central Balkans
- Bosnia & Herzegovina
- North Macedonia
- Great Britain: in the west and south of England in southern areas on chalk soils. Its common name in the UK is "Roman snail" because it was introduced to the island by the Romans during the Roman period (AD 43–410). In England only (not the rest of the UK), the Roman snail is a protected species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, making it illegal to kill, injure, collect or sell these snails.
- Central France
- Netherlands 
- Denmark – Listed as a protected species.
- Southern Sweden
- In central and southern parts of Sweden, Norway and Finland, isolated and relatively small populations occur. It is not native to these countries, but is likely to have been imported by monks from Southern Europe during medieval times.
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.
Drawing of head of mating H. pomatia with everted penis and dart sac shooting a love dart.
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.
Culinary use and history
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.
- Helicogena inflata Hartmann, 1844 (junior synonym)
- Helicogena pomatia (Linnaeus, 1758) (chresonym)
- Helicogena pomatia brenaensis W. Blume, 1920 (junior synonym)
- Helicogena pomatia burmeisteri W. Blume, 1920 (junior synonym)
- Helicogena pomatia var. gesneri Hartmann, 1844 (junior synonym)
- Helicogena pomatia var. rustica Hartmann, 1844 (junior synonym)
- Helicogena pomatia var. sphaeralis Hartmann, 1844 (junior synonym)
- Helix (Helix) pomatia Linnaeus, 1758· accepted, alternate representation
- Helix eusarcosoma Servain, 1884 (junior synonym)
- Helix pomaria O. F. Müller, 1774 (junior synonym)
- Helix pomatia albida Moquin-Tandon, 1855 (junior synonym)
- Helix pomatia brunnea Moquin-Tandon, 1855 (junior synonym)
- Helix pomatia expansilabris Kobelt, 1906 (junior synonym)
- Helix pomatia parva Moquin-Tandon, 1855 (junior synonym)
- Helix pomatia quinquefasciata Moquin-Tandon, 1855 (junior synonym)
- Helix pomatia var. banatica Kimakowicz, 1890 (invalid; not Rossmässler, 1838)
- Helix pomatia var. christinae Kobelt, 1906 (junior synonym)
- Helix pomatia var. claudiensis Kobelt, 1906 (junior synonym)
- Helix pomatia var. compacta Hazay, 1880 (junior synonym)
- Helix pomatia var. costellata Kobelt, 1906 (junior synonym)
- Helix pomatia var. dobrudschae Kobelt, 1906 (junior synonym)
- Helix pomatia var. elsae Kobelt, 1906 (junior synonym)
- Helix pomatia var. gratiosa Gredler, 1892 (junior synonym)
- Helix pomatia var. hajnaldiana Hazay, 1880 (junior synonym)
- Helix pomatia var. kapellae Kobelt, 1906 (junior synonym)
- Helix pomatia var. lagarinae Adami, 1885 (junior synonym)
- Helix pomatia var. lednicensis Brancsik, 1888 (junior synonym)
- Helix pomatia var. luteola Kobelt, 1906 (junior synonym)
- Helix pomatia var. pannonica Kobelt, 1906 (junior synonym)
- Helix pomatia var. pedemontana Kobelt, 1907 (junior synonym)
- Helix pomatia var. piceata Gredler, 1890 (junior synonym)
- Helix pomatia var. pulskyana Hazay, 1880 (junior synonym)
- Helix pomatia var. radiata Ulicny, 1885 (junior synonym)
- Helix pomatia var. rhodopensis Kobelt, 1906 (junior synonym)
- Helix pomatia var. sabulosa Hazay, 1880 (junior synonym)
- Helix pomatia var. serbica Kobelt, 1906 (junior synonym)
- Helix pomatia var. solitaria Hazay, 1880 (junior synonym)
- Helix pomatia var. thessalica O. Boettger, 1886 (junior synonym)
- Helix pomatia var. transsylvanica Kobelt, 1906 (junior synonym)
- Helix promaeca Bourguignat, 1882 (junior synonym)
- Helix pyrgia Bourguignat, 1882 (junior synonym)
- Helix scalaris O. F. Müller, 1774 (junior synonym)
- Helix segalaunica Sayn, 1888 (junior synonym)
This article incorporates public domain text from the reference.
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