Giant African land snail spotted in Texas

The Giant African Land Snail invading southern Florida is gigantic, almost as large as a city rat.
AP Photo/Scott Burton

First Florida and now Texas -- a giant African land snail has been spotted in a second state.

The snail was seen by a woman in Houston and no one knows where it went or how it got there. According to NBC Houston affiliate KPRC, this is the first known sighting of giant snails in the area.

These mollusks can grow to be as large as a rat and are very destructive to their surroundings. They can eat through thick plaster walls, and especially enjoy stucco because it adds calcium to their shells.

Researchers are concerned that the snails could spread disease. Houston area residents are being urged to be careful and not to pick up any snails, even if they look small as they could still be dangerous. These mollusks often pick up diseases that can be spread by touching their slime.

Biology professor at the University of South Florida Marty Martin says that disease is easily spread by something as simple as kids playing in the wrong place at the wrong time, CBS Dallas-Fort Worth reports. 

Houston officials are searching the area for this particular snail, but assume that there are likely more. These big guys reproduce rapidly and one of these giants can lay up to 1,200 eggs a year.

Giant snails have been a big problem for South Florida communities, where the origin of the invasive species is also a mystery. According to Reuters, the first sighting of the mollusks in Florida was in 2011. Since then, about 117,000 giant snails have been counted.