Helix pomatia

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Helix pomatia
Helix pomatia 89a.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Mollusca
Class: Gastropoda
Subclass: Heterobranchia
Order: Stylommatophora
Family: Helicidae
Subfamily: Helicinae
Tribe: Helicinini
Genus: Helix
H. pomatia
Binomial name
Helix pomatia

see text

Helix pomatia, common names the Roman snail, Burgundy snail, or escargot, is a species of large, edible, air-breathing land snail, a pulmonate gastropod terrestrial mollusc in the family Helicidae.[3] It is one of Europe's biggest species of land snail.


Distribution map of H. pomatia showing the European countries where the species is present
In Odenwald, Germany
Helix pomatia, light micrograph of an eye; 1 anterior chamber, 2 lens, 3 retina, 4 optic nerv

Distribution of H. pomatia includes:

Southeastern and Central Europe:[4]

Western Europe:

Northern Europe:

  • Denmark – Listed as a protected species.[8]
  • Southern Sweden[4]
  • Norway[4]
  • Finland[4]
  • 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.
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Estonia[4]

Eastern Europe:

Southern Europe:


View of a shell of Helix pomatia

The shell is creamy white to light brownish, often with indistinct brown colour bands.[4] The shell has five to six whorls.[4] The aperture is large.[4] The apertural margin is white and slightly reflected in adult snails.[4] The umbilicus is narrow and partly covered by the reflected columellar margin.[4]

The width of the shell is 30–50 mm.[4] The height of the shell is 30–45 mm.[4]



In southeastern Europe, H. pomatia lives in forests, open habitats, gardens, and vineyards, especially along rivers, confined to calcareous substrate.[4] In Central Europe, it occurs in open forests and shrubland on calcareous substrate.[4] It prefers high humidity and lower temperatures, and needs loose soil for burrowing to hibernate and lay its eggs.[4] It lives up to 2100 m above sea level in the Alps, but usually below 2000 m.[4] 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.[4]


Average distance of migration reaches 3.5–6.0 m.[4]

Helix pomatia (the larger snail) laying eggs
A picture about an Helix pomatia juvenile
A picture about an H. pomatia juvenile, about 2-3 years old

This snail is hermaphroditic. Reproduction in Central Europe begins at the end of May.[4]

Eggs are laid in June and July, in clutches of 40–65 eggs.[4] The size of the egg is 5.5–6.5 mm[4] or 8.6 × 7.2 mm.[10] Juveniles hatch after three to four weeks, and may consume their siblings under unfavourable climate conditions.[4] Maturity is reached after two to five years.[4] The life span is up to 20 years, but snails die faster often because of drying in summer and freezing in winter.[4] Ten-year-old individuals are probably not uncommon in natural populations.[4] The maximum lifespan is 35 years.[4]

During estivation or hibernation, H. pomatia is one of the few species that is capable of creating a calcareous epiphragm to seal the opening of its shell.


This species is listed in IUCN Red List, and in European Red List of Non-marine Molluscs as of least concern.[11][12] H. pomatia is threatened by continuous habitat destructions and drainage, usually less threatened by commercial collections.[4] 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.[4] It is of lower concern in Switzerland and Austria, but many regions restrict commercial collecting.[4]


In Japan, the Mie Escargot Farm succeeded in the complete cultivation of Burgundy species (Pomatia).[13]


The intestinal juice of H. pomatia contains large amounts of aryl, steroid, and glucosinolate sulfatase activities. These sulfatases have a broad specificity, so are commonly used as a hydrolyzing agent in analytical procedures such as chromatography to prepare the sample for analysis.[14]

Culinary use and history[edit]

Cooked snails are called escargots.

Roman snails were eaten by both Ancient Greeks and Romans.[15]

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.[16]


  • 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.[4]

  1. ^ IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
  2. ^ Linnaeus C. (1758). Systema naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Editio decima, reformata. pp. [1–4], 1–824. Holmiae. (Salvius).
  3. ^ MolluscaBase eds. (2021). MolluscaBase. Helix pomatia Linnaeus, 1758. Accessed through: World Register of Marine Species at: http://marinespecies.org/aphia.php?p=taxdetails&id=1050286 on 2021-02-19
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao "Species summary for Helix pomatia". AnimalBase, last modified 5 March 2009, accessed 6 September 2010.
  5. ^ (in Czech) Dušek J., Hošek M. & Kolářová J. (2007). "Hodnotící zpráva o stavu z hlediska ochrany evropsky významných druhů a typů přírodních stanovišť v České republice za rok 2004–2006". Ochrana přírody 62(5): appendix 5:I-IV.
  6. ^ "Protection for wild animals on Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981".
  7. ^ "Helix pomatia". Stichting Anemoon, accessed 6 September 2010.
  8. ^ " Vinbjergsnegl.". Danish Ministry of the Environment and Food, Environmental Protection Agency, Retrieved September 2017.
  9. ^ Balashov I. & Gural-Sverlova N. 2012. An annotated checklist of the terrestrial molluscs of Ukraine. Journal of Conchology. 41 (1): 91-109.
  10. ^ Heller J.: Life History Strategies. in Barker G. M. (ed.): The biology of terrestrial molluscs. CABI Publishing, Oxon, UK, 2001, ISBN 0-85199-318-4. 1–146, cited page: 428.
  11. ^ Neubert, E. "Helix pomatia". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2011.2). IUCNRedList.org. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
  12. ^ Cuttelod, A.; Seddon, M.; Neubert, E. "European Red List of Non-marine Molluscs" (PDF). European Commission.
  13. ^ "Japanese Farmer Breeding Rare Escargot de Burgogne Snails". 25 May 2016.
  14. ^ Roy, Alexander B (1987). Methods in Enzymology, Volume 143, Sulfatases from Helix pomatia. Academic Press. pp. 361–366. ISBN 9780121820435.
  15. ^ Buono, Giuseppe Del (2015-02-24). "The roman snail". Wall Street International. Retrieved 2020-08-17.
  16. ^ "Snail Cultivation (Heliciculture)". The Living World of Molluscs. Retrieved 14 June 2014.

Further reading[edit]

  • Blume, W. (1920). Einige mazedonische Schnecken. Archiv für Molluskenkunde, 52 (2): 89-92. Frankfurt am Main.
  • Egorov R. (2015). "Helix pomatia Linnaeus, 1758: the history of its introduction and recent distribution in European Russia". Malacologica Bohemoslovaca 14: 91–101. PDF
  • (in Russian) Roumyantseva E. G. & Dedkov V. P. (2006). "Reproductive properties of the Roman snail Helix pomatia L. in the Kaliningrad Region, Russia". Ruthenica 15: 131–138. abstract
  • Bank, R. A.; Neubert, E. (2017). Checklist of the land and freshwater Gastropoda of Europe. Last update: July 16, 2017.

External links[edit]