Survival without water: A key trait of an aquatic invader to spread

Aug 22, 2012
This is the mudsnail Potamopyrgus antipodarum, next to a pencil head for scale. Álvaro Alonso, Pilar Castro-Díez

Nowadays, an increasing number of rivers and lakes are being invaded by exotic snails, which come from remote regions, and even other continents. Such species represent a threat to native species, as they compete for food or space with them.

This is the case of the mudsnail Potamopyrgus antipodarum. This small aquatic snail is native to New Zealand, and has spread throughout rivers, lakes or streams in Europe, Australia, America and Asia. The invasion success of this mudsnail may be partly due to the ability of females to reproduce without participation of males (i.e. parthenogenesis). This means that only one female is able to start a new population. Besides, the reproductive potential is huge, up to 230 per female in a year.

But how can these snails disperse from catchment to catchment? If the species were able to tolerate desiccation, it could be transported attached to birds, fishing tools or . This possibility has been investigated by the Spanish ecologists Álvaro Alonso and Pilar Castro-Díez from the University of Alcalá, whose research was published in the open-access journal NeoBiota.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
Potamopyrgus antipodarum comes back to life when put in water. Credit: Álvaro Alonso, Pilar Castro-Díez

They performed a laboratory experiment, exposing the snails to different dehydration periods and counting the number of surviving . In this way they demonstrated that the mudsnail can survive up to 48 hours out of water. From this finding, two (low-cost) and relatively easy control mechanisms for avoiding the spread of mudsnails emerge: 1) exposing to air of any fishing tools and/or boats for more than 53 hours and 2) avoiding the access of wild and domestic animals to infected rivers or lakes via physical barriers or scarecrows. Such simple measures can actually help to preserve water bodies free of invaders.

Explore further: Stanford researchers rethink 'natural' habitat for wildlife

More information: Alonso A, Castro-Díez P (2012) Tolerance to air exposure of the New Zealand mudsnail Potamopyrgus antipodarum (Hydrobiidae, Mollusca) as a prerequisite to survival in overland translocations. NeoBiota 14: 67-74. doi: 10.3897/neobiota.14.3140

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Parasites keep things sexy in 'hotspots'

Jul 23, 2009

The coevolutionary struggle between a New Zealand snail and its worm parasite makes sex advantageous for the snail, whose females favor asexual reproduction in the absence of parasites, say Indiana University ...

Freshwater snails are surprisingly fast-moving invaders

Dec 04, 2006

A new study from The American Naturalist studies some very fast snails and their success at long-distance colonization. Introduced into the rivers of the Martinique islands less than twelve years ago, the freshwater ...

Giant snails a danger in Florida

Aug 10, 2005

Florida officials reportedly are fearful giant South American channeled apple snails might threaten native species and endanger water quality.

Freshwater Fish Invasions the Result of Human Activity

Feb 05, 2008

Globally, invasive species represent a major threat to native species. A new paper published this week in the open-access journal PLoS Biology shows that, for rivers and lakes, where these invasions occur ...

Tiny snails survive in bird's digestive system

Jul 12, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- In a recent study published in the Journal of Biogeography, researchers from the Tohoku University in Japan show how 15 percent of the Tornatellides boeningi, or tiny land snail, are able to s ...

Recommended for you

Plants with dormant seeds give rise to more species

15 hours ago

Seeds that sprout as soon as they're planted may be good news for a garden. But wild plants need to be more careful. In the wild, a plant whose seeds sprouted at the first warm spell or rainy day would risk disaster. More ...

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

Apr 18, 2014

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

(Phys.org) —The incident was captured by Dr Bruna Bezerra and colleagues in the Atlantic Forest in the Northeast of Brazil.  Dr Bezerra is a Research Associate at the University of Bristol and a Professor ...

Researchers develop new model of cellular movement

(Phys.org) —Cell movement plays an important role in a host of biological functions from embryonic development to repairing wounded tissue. It also enables cancer cells to break free from their sites of ...

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.