Helix pomatia

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Helix pomatia
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Mollusca
Class: Gastropoda
Subclass: Heterobranchia
Order: Stylommatophora
Family: Helicidae
Subfamily: Helicinae
Tribe: Helicini
Genus: Helix
H. pomatia
Binomial name
Helix pomatia

see text

Helix pomatia, common names are the Roman snail, Burgundy snail, or escargot, is a species of large, air-breathing stylommatophoran land snail native to Europe. It is characterized by a globular brown shell. It is an edible species. Helix pomatia commonly occurs synanthropically throughout its range.


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 nerve

The present distribution of Helix pomatia is considerably affected by the dispersion of humans and synanthropic occurrences. The northern limits of their natural distribution run presumably through central Germany and southern Poland with the eastern range limits running through western-most Ukraine and Moldova/Romania to Bulgaria. In the south, the species reaches northern Bulgaria, central Serbia, Bosnia and Hezegovina and Croatia. It occurs in northern Italy southwards to the Po and the Ligurian Apennines. Westerly the native range extends to eastern France.[3][4]

Helix pomatia is now distributed up to western Belarus and the Baltic states, the south of Finland, Sweden and Norway, Denmark, northern Germany, and the Benelux. Scattered introduced populations occur westwards up to northern Spain. In Great Britain, it lives on chalk soils in the south and west of England. In the east, it was introduced up to the Volga.[3][4] Introduced populations also exist in eastern United States and Canada.[5]


View of a shell of Helix pomatia

The shell is creamy white to light brownish, often with indistinct brown colour bands although sometimes the banding is well developed and conspicuous. 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.[6]

The width of the shell is 30–50 millimetres (1.2–2.0 inches).[6] The height of the shell is 30–45 mm (1.2–1.8 in).[6]



In Central Europe, it occurs in open forests and shrubland on calcareous substrate.[6] It prefers high humidity and lower temperatures, and needs loose soil for burrowing to hibernate and lay its eggs.[6] It lives up to 2,100 m (6,900 ft) above sea level in the Alps, but usually below 2,000 m (6,600 ft).[6] 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.[6]


Average distance of migration reaches 3.5–6.0 m (11.5–19.7 ft).[6]

Helix pomatia (left) laying eggs
A picture about an Helix pomatia juvenile
A picture of a H. pomatia juvenile, about 2–3 years old

This snail is hermaphroditic. Reproduction in Central Europe begins at the end of May.[6]

Eggs are laid in June and July, in clutches of 40–65 eggs.[6] The size of the egg is 5.5–6.5 mm[6] or 8.6 × 7.2 mm.[7] Juveniles hatch after three to four weeks, and may consume their siblings under unfavourable climate conditions.[6] Maturity is reached after two to five years.[6] The life span is up to 20 years, but they often die sooner due to drying in summer and freezing in winter.[6] Ten-year-old individuals are probably not uncommon in natural populations.[6] The maximum lifespan is 35 years.[6]

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.[8][9] H. pomatia is threatened by continuous habitat destructions and drainage, usually less threatened by commercial collections.[6] 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.[6] It is of lower concern in Switzerland and Austria, but many regions restrict commercial collecting.[6]

Within its native range, Helix pomatia is mostly a common species. It is also considered Least Concern by the IUCN red list. However, it is listed in the Annex V of the EU's Habitats Directive and protected by law in several countries to regulate harvesting from free living populations.


In Japan, the Mie Escargot Farm succeeded in the complete cultivation of the Burgundy species (Pomatia).[15]


The intestinal juice of H. pomatia contains large amounts of aryl, steroid, and glucosinolate sulfatase activities. These sulfatases have a broad specificity, so they are commonly used as a hydrolyzing agent in analytical procedures such as chromatography where they are used to prepare samples for analysis.[16]

Culinary use and history[edit]

Cooked snails are called escargots.

Roman snails were eaten by both Ancient Greeks and Romans.[17]

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 is rarely farmed commercially.[18]


  • Helicogena inflata Hartmann, 1844 (junior synonym)
  • Helicogena pomatia (Linnaeus, 1758) (chresonym)
  • 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. 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. sabulosa Hazay, 1880 (junior synonym)
  • Helix pomatia var. serbica Kobelt, 1906 (junior synonym)
  • Helix pomatia var. solitaria Hazay, 1880 (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.[6]

  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. ^ a b Korábek, Ondřej; Petrusek, Adam; Juřičková, Lucie (2018-01-01). "Glacial refugia and postglacial spread of an iconic large European land snail, Helix pomatia (Pulmonata: Helicidae)". Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 123 (1): 218–234. doi:10.1093/biolinnean/blx135. ISSN 0024-4066.
  4. ^ a b Korábek, Ondřej; Juřičková, Lucie; Petrusek, Adam (2021-12-31). "Diversity of Land Snail Tribe Helicini (Gastropoda: Stylommatophora: Helicidae): Where Do We Stand after 20 Years of Sequencing Mitochondrial Markers?". Diversity. 14 (1): 24. doi:10.3390/d14010024. ISSN 1424-2818.
  5. ^ Forsyth, Robert G.; Kamstra, James (2019-11-17). "Roman Snail, Helix pomatia (Mollusca: Helicidae), in Canada". The Canadian Field-Naturalist. 133 (2): 156. doi:10.22621/cfn.v133i2.2150. ISSN 0008-3550. S2CID 214283688.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t "Species summary for Helix pomatia". AnimalBase, last modified 5 March 2009, accessed 6 September 2010.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ Neubert, E. "Helix pomatia". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2011.2). IUCNRedList.org. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
  9. ^ Cuttelod, A.; Seddon, M.; Neubert, E. (30 April 2024). "European Red List of Non-marine Molluscs" (PDF). European Commission.
  10. ^ "RIS - Oö. Natur- und Landschaftsschutzgesetz 2001 - Landesrecht konsolidiert Oberösterreich, Fassung vom 22.07.2023". www.ris.bka.gv.at. Retrieved 2023-07-22.
  11. ^ "Besonders geschützte Pflanzen- und Tierarten des Burgenlandes gem. §§ 15a und 16 des Burgenländischen Naturschutz- und Landschaftspflegegesetzes, LGBl. Nr. 27/1991 in der Fassung LGBl. Nr. 20/2016" (PDF). 2016. Retrieved 22 July 2023.
  12. ^ "Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981". 2022. Retrieved 22 July 2023.
  13. ^ "Arrêté du 24 avril 1979 fixant la liste des escargots dont le ramassage et la cession à titre gratuit ou onéreux peuvent être interdits ou autorisés - Légifrance". www.legifrance.gouv.fr. Retrieved 2023-07-22.
  14. ^ Miljøministeriet (2021-03-25), Bekendtgørelse om fredning af visse dyre- og plantearter og pleje af tilskadekommet vildt, retrieved 2023-07-22
  15. ^ "Japanese Farmer Breeding Rare Escargot de Burgogne Snails". 25 May 2016.
  16. ^ Roy, Alexander B (1987). Methods in Enzymology, Volume 143, Sulfatases from Helix pomatia. Academic Press. pp. 361–366. ISBN 9780121820435.
  17. ^ Buono, Giuseppe Del (2015-02-24). "The roman snail". Wall Street International. Retrieved 2020-08-17.
  18. ^ "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]