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Marisa cornuarietis
(giant ramshorn)

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Datasheet

Marisa cornuarietis (giant ramshorn)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 22 November 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Natural Enemy
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Marisa cornuarietis
  • Preferred Common Name
  • giant ramshorn
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Mollusca
  •       Class: Gastropoda
  •         Subclass: Caenogastropoda
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • M. cornuarietis is an ampullarid freshwater snail presumed native to northern South America and Central America. This species has established outside of its native range in several Caribbean nations, southern U...

  • Principal Source
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    compend@cabi.org
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Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Marisa cornuarietis Linnaeus, 1758

Preferred Common Name

  • giant ramshorn

Other Scientific Names

  • Ampullaria chiquitensis d'Orbigny, 1838
  • Ampullaria knorrii Philippi, 1852
  • Ampullaria rotula Mousson, 1869
  • Ceratodes fasciatus Guilding, 1828
  • Ceratodes rotula Mousson, 1869
  • Helix cornu arietis Linnaeus, 1758
  • Marisa chiquitensis d'Orbigny, 1838
  • Marisa cornuarietis knorrii Philippi, 1852
  • Marisa intermedia Gray, 1824
  • Planorbis contrarius O.F. Müller, 1774

International Common Names

  • English: Columbian ramshorn snail; golden horn marissa; striped ram's horn snail; stripehorn
  • Spanish: caracol cuerno de carnero; caracol rosquilla
  • French: escargot géant béliers corne; l'escargot géant de la traverse; marise; marise aplatie

Local Common Names

  • Antigua and Barbuda: caracol cuerno de carnero
  • Germany: Paradise-Schnecke
  • Puerto Rico: hard disk snail

Summary of Invasiveness

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M. cornuarietis is an ampullarid freshwater snail presumed native to northern South America and Central America. This species has established outside of its native range in several Caribbean nations, southern USA, Africa and Spain. It was intentionally introduced into new areas as a biocontrol agent for unwanted macrophyte growth and control of pulmonate snail hosts of trematode parasites afflicting humans and livestock. However, use of M. cornuarietis for such purposes is no longer promoted in recognition of the species’ adverse environmental impacts. Nevertheless, M. cornuarietis is still traded widely as an aquarium pet. M. cornuarietis is primarily a herbivore, feeding on macrophytes. This diet, coupled with their large body mass, high reproductive output and often high densities mean these snails can effect rapid changes in macrophyte community structure, with consequent perturbations of nutrient balance, turbidity and trophic structure of water bodies. M. cornuarietis also has omnivorous tendencies and has been shown to predate on snail eggs and neonates and other soft-bodied invertebrates. Among endemic threatened species in the invaded upper San Marcos and Comal rivers in central Texas, the fountain darter, Etheostoma fonticola, is considered at risk from M. cornuarietis predation on eggs and from herbivory of macrophytes in the critical habitat. 

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Mollusca
  •             Class: Gastropoda
  •                 Subclass: Caenogastropoda
  •                     Order: Architaenioglossa
  •                         Unknown: Ampullarioidea
  •                             Family: Ampullariidae
  •                                 Genus: Marisa
  •                                     Species: Marisa cornuarietis

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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M. cornuarietis belongs to the family Ampullariidae, commonly known as the apple snails. The genus Marisa contains only one other species, M. planogyra Pilsbry, 1933 present in the Pantanal region of Brazil (Cowie and Thiengo, 2003).

Description

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Shell: dextrally coiled. Juveniles globose. During post-hatching ontogeny shell growth is of planispiral coiling, producing 3.5 to 4 flat whorls in which the juvenile spire is not elevated above the adult whorls and the umbilicus is very widely open. Shell in adults 18-22 mm in height, 48-56 mm in diameter, more-or-less glossy but with growth lines (transverse striate) that are most prominent near the aperture. Aperture plane makes a slight angle with the shell axis (10°); peristome (aperture margin) generally continuous, but interrupted by prominent callus on parietal wall in immature snails; peristome simple, sharp, but late in ontogeny becoming reflected and thickened. Yellow to brownish ground colour with 3-6 dark red-brown to black spiral bands over periphery and umbilicus; banding pattern can be absent. Adult mass about 500-650 mg. With a weak sexual dimorphism, shell of males tending smaller, thicker and with more rounded aperture. The planispiral shell is orientated vertically.

Operculum: yellowish to brownish corneous, concentric.

Adults: head region with prominent snout, dorsally bearing two long slender cephalic tentacles, each with a black-pigmented eye borne on short peduncles at their base and at its anterior fringe bearing two slender inferior (labial) tentacles and a small mouth ventrally. Tail region moderately long, dorsally carrying an operculum. Snout, tentacles and dorsal aspects of foot and tail mottled grey to black. Foot sole broadly-rounded anteriorly, bluntly-pointed posteriorly; uniformly pale.

Mantle cavity possessing a single unipectinate gill (ctenidium) as the principal site of respiratory oxygen uptake, but additionally the cavity itself modified as a lung for aerial respiration. A manoeuvrable, inwardly rolled extension of the mantle edge functioning as an inhalant siphon, drawing oxygenated water into mantle cavity and over the gill. Dioecious, with internal fertilization. Male reproductive tract consisting of a single testis in upper whorls connected via vas deferens to seminal vesicle and prostate gland and thence to male genital papilla opening through floor of the mantle cavity. Sperm groove traversing mantle cavity to reach the male genitalia on left comprising penial sac proximal to penis housed within the penial sheath, a muscle modification of the mantle edge. Penis muscular, penetrated by a coiled, slender tubular spermiduct, bearing externally glands that extrude mucous secretion through an anterior duct during copulation; penis distendible during copulation, extending beyond mantle cavity and from which terminal part of the spermiduct protrudes as an intromittent organ.

Female reproductive tract consisting of a single ovary in upper whorls connected via the renal gonoduct – elaborated as a the receptaculum seminis, the site for sperm storage and fertilization – to the saccular bursa copulatrix and the glandular chambers of the pallial gonoduct comprising albumen and capsule glands and thence opening to the female genitital papilla in the anterior left aspect of mantle cavity. Bursa copulatrix functions as site for receival of sperms of the male and from which any defect sperm cells that aren't able to migrate to the receptaculum seminis, are absorbed. Female glands function to provide nutriment and capsulation of the eggs and egg-mass, greatly increasing in volume during breeding season.

Radula: taenioglossate (formula 2.1.c.1.2), i.e. seven teeth in each transverse row are arranged such that the central tooth is flanked on each side by a lat­eral tooth and two marginal teeth.

Distribution

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The native range of M. cornuarietis extends from Central America (Panama, Costa Rica) to southern Brazil. Nonetheless, within this range there has been some variance among authors as to what constitutes native and introduced. Nguma et al. (1982) considered M. cornuarietis as autochthonous to habitats in the Magdalena and Orinoco river systems in Colombia and Venezuela. Generally, Venezuela, Colombia, Trinidad and Tobago and the Amazon Basin regions of Brazil, Bolivia and Peru are considered to be the native range, but the species’ status in French Guyana, Guyana and Surinam and in countries of the southern Caribbean, is ambiguous. The lack of invasiveness in these latter countries may indicate its native status there.

Additionally, M. cornuarietis has been reported from southern regions of South America. Cowie and Thiengo (2003) argued that specimens from south of the Amazon Basin were wrongly identified as M. cornuarietis by Ihering (1919) and these records had been perpetuated in the subsequent literature. Therefore Cowie and Thiengo (2003) considered Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina as being not part of this species' native distribution. Nonetheless, Quintana (1982) document specimen records from the Alto Paraguay region (as M. chiquitensis) and Simone (2006) records the species from Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay.

M. cornuarietis has been introduced into Egypt, Puerto Rico, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania and the USA (California, Florida, Idaho and Texas). This species was also introduced into New Zealand and evaluated as a potential biocontrol agent for aquatic weeds, however, it was not released (Chapman et al., 1974; NIWA, 2002; Horgan et al., 2014).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Last updated: 10 Jan 2020
Continent/Country/Region Distribution Last Reported Origin First Reported Invasive Reference Notes

Africa

EgyptPresentIntroducedDemian and Kamel (1973); Brown (1994); Damme et al. (2010); Cowie and Hayes (2012); Horgan et al. (2014)Introduced for biological control of the intermediate hosts of schistosomes
South AfricaPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced1986Aardt and Kock (1991)Introduced for schistosomiasis research purposes. No evidence of establishment in the field (Appleton and Miranda, 2015)
SudanPresent, LocalizedIntroduced1981Haridi and Jobin (1985); Madsen et al. (1988); Madsen (1990); Brown (1994); Cowie and Hayes (2012); Horgan et al. (2014); CABI (Undated); Introduced as biological control agent for Biomphalaria hosts of Schistosomes
TanzaniaPresent, LocalizedIntroduced1977Msangi and Kihauli (1972); Nguma et al. (1982); Brown (1994); Cowie and Hayes (2012); Horgan et al. (2014)Introduced as biological control agent for Biomphalaria hosts of Schistosomes

Asia

IsraelPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedRoll et al. (2009); Milstein et al. (2012)Has evidently become extinct in the field - now confined to aquaria

Europe

SpainPresent, LocalizedIntroduced2012Arias and Torralba-Burrial (2014)Detected near Colloto, in Nora River, Oviedo, Asturias, Spain

North America

Costa RicaPresentNativeTaylor (1993); Simone (2006); Cowie and Hayes (2012); Horgan et al. (2014)
CubaPresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasiveAguayo and Jaume (1954); Hunt (1958); Ferrer Lopez et al. (1991); Gutiérrez et al. (1997); Pointier et al. (2005); Fernndez et al. (2006); Simone (2006); Vázquez Perera and Perera Valderrama (2010); Cowie and Hayes (2012); Horgan et al. (2014)First reported: 1940s
Dominican RepublicPresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasiveVargas et al. (1991); Perera and Walls (1996); Cowie and Hayes (2012); Horgan et al. (2014)
GrenadaPresent, LocalizedIntroduced2009InvasiveCharles (2009)Detected at three locations in northern Grenada (Sulphur Springs, Salle River; river near Bathway Beach; Palmiste Lake)
GuadeloupePresent, WidespreadIntroduced1987Pointier et al. (1991); Pointier and Augustin (1999); Pointier and David (2004); Cowie and Hayes (2012); Horgan et al. (2014)Introduced as biological control agent for planorbid vectors of Schistosoma
MartiniquePresent, WidespreadIntroduced1987InvasivePointier (1999); Pointier (2001); Kairo et al. (2003); Cowie and Hayes (2012); Horgan et al. (2014)First detected at Anse Rivière and Quartier Boisneuf
PanamaPresentNativeSimone (2006); Cowie and Hayes (2012); Horgan et al. (2014)
Puerto RicoPresent, WidespreadIntroduced1952InvasiveOliver-Gonzales et al. (1956); Jobin et al. (1977); Cowie and Hayes (2012); Horgan et al. (2014); CABI (Undated)Evidently established as a passively introduced adventive, but spread aids by use as a biological control agent of the intermediate host snails of Schistosoma
Saint Kitts and NevisPresent, LocalizedIntroducedFerguson et al. (1960); Prentice (1983); Bass (2006); Cowie and Hayes (2012); Horgan et al. (2014)Introduced to St Kitts as biological control agent of the intermediate host snails of Schistosoma; First reported: 1950s
Trinidad and TobagoPresent, WidespreadNativeBass (2003); Cowie and Thiengo (2003); Simone (2006); Dipnarine (2015)
United StatesPresentCABI (Undated a)Present based on regional distribution.
-CaliforniaPresentIntroducedHowells et al. (2006); Rawlings et al. (2007)
-FloridaPresent, WidespreadIntroduced1957InvasiveHunt (1958); Edmondson (1959); Hale (1964); Seaman and Porterfield (1964); Robins (1971); Dundee (1974); Thompson (1984); Howells et al. (2006); Rawlings et al. (2007); Cowie and Hayes (2012); Horgan et al. (2014); USGS NAS (2016)First detected in Coral Gables in 1957. Has spread to many other counties in southern Florida
-IdahoPresent, LocalizedIntroduced1992Bowler and Frest (1992); Frest and Bowler (1992); Frest and Johannes (2000); Howells et al. (2006); Rawlings et al. (2007)Reported from a tropical fish hatchery on Deep Creek in the central Snake River drainage, Twin Falls County in 1992
-TexasPresentIntroduced1981Neck (1984); Horne et al. (1992); Howells (2001); Howells et al. (2006); Rawlings et al. (2007); Karatayev et al. (2009); Cowie and Hayes (2012); Horgan et al. (2014)First reported in headwaters of San Marcos River, San Marcos (city), Hays County in 1981. Has spread to other river systems. Evidently in decline (Howells et al., 2006)

South America

ArgentinaPresentCABI (Undated b)Cowie and Thiengo (2003) conclude that records for south of the Amazon basin by Ihering (1919) to be incorrect. This argument is accepted by Pastorino and Darrigan (2011). However, Simone (2006) records the species from Paraguay, Argentina and Uruquary
BoliviaPresent, WidespreadNativeCowie and Thiengo (2003); Simone (2006)
BrazilPresent, WidespreadNativeCowie and Thiengo (2003); Simone (2006)
-AmazonasPresentSimone (2006)
-GoiasPresentSimone (2006)
-Mato Grosso do SulPresentSimone (2006)
-ParaPresentSimone (2006)
-Rio Grande do SulPresentIhering (1919); Simone (2006); Agudo-Padrón (2009)Cowie and Thiengo (2003) conclude that records for south of the Amazon basin by Ihering (1919) to be incorrect. However, the species continues to be recorded from the State (Agudo-Padrón, 2009)
ColombiaPresent, WidespreadNativeHorne et al. (1992); Cowie and Thiengo (2003); Cowie and Hayes (2012)
French GuianaPresent, WidespreadIntroducedCowie and Thiengo (2003); Simone (2006); Cowie and Hayes (2012); Horgan et al. (2014)Presence considered not yet confirmed according to Massemin et al. (2009)
GuyanaPresent, WidespreadIntroducedCowie and Thiengo (2003); Cowie and Hayes (2012); Horgan et al. (2014)
ParaguayPresentNativeIhering (1919); Quintana (1982); Simone (2006)Cowie and Thiengo (2003) conclude that records for south of the Amazon basin by Ihering (1919) to be incorrect. This argument is accepted by Pastorino and Darrigan (2011). However, Quintana (1982) document specimen records from Alto Paraguay region (as Marisa chiquitensis), and Simone (2006) records the species from Paraguay, Argentina and Uruquary
PeruPresent, LocalizedNativeRamírez et al. (2003)Amazonia
SurinamePresentIntroducedSimone (2006); Cowie and Hayes (2012); Horgan et al. (2014)Presence considered not yet confirmed according to Geijskes and Pain (1957), but nonetheless recorded by Simone (2006)
UruguayPresentSimone (2006)Cowie and Thiengo (2003) conclude that records for south of the Amazon basin by Ihering (1919) to be incorrect. This argument is accepted by Pastorino and Darrigan (2011). However, Simone (2006) records the species from Paraguay, Argentina and Uruquary
VenezuelaPresent, WidespreadNativeCowie and Thiengo (2003); Cowie and Hayes (2012); Horgan et al. (2014); Pointier (2015)

History of Introduction and Spread

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M. cornuarietis established as an adventive in Puerto Rico, but subsequently became widely distributed in the Caribbean and thence in Africa (Egypt, Sudan, Tanzania) as a result of biological control programs directed at pulmonate snail intermediate hosts of Schistosoma parasites and/or aquatic weeds. M. cornuarietis also occurs widely in aquaria and is traded as an aquarium pet throughout the world (Ng et al., 2014; Ng et al., 2016). Establishment in the field in the Florida, Texas, Idaho and California, USA, Spain and possibly elsewhere has been attributed to deliberate dumping of unwanted aquarium contents into natural or artificial waterways and waterbodies.

Risk of Introduction

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The primary risk of spread for this species into new locations is through the pet/domestic aquarium trade and the aquatic plants trade for pond gardening and landscaping (Howells et al., 2006; Rawlings et al., 2007). There is some potential for natural spread of this species locally (Robins, 1971). M. cornuarietis poses the greatest potential for establishment in tropical regions due to its thermal requirements. In subtropical and temperature regions the extent of suitable warm-water habitat is restricted to tectonically-heated springs, streams and lakes and artificially thermal waters arising from industrial and thermal-electric facilities.

Habitat

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M.cornuarietis occurs in freshwater aquatic ecosystems with macrophytic vegetation, including lakes, rivers, ponds, swamps and irrigation and drainage canals. It prefers still or slow-flowing systems, typically at depths less than one metre (Ferguson and Palmer, 1958).

Habitat List

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CategorySub-CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalWetlands Principal habitat
Freshwater
Irrigation channels Principal habitat
Lakes Principal habitat
Reservoirs Principal habitat
Rivers / streams Principal habitat
Ponds Principal habitat
Brackish
Lagoons Principal habitat

Hosts/Species Affected

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The principal agricultural crop that may be adversely impacted by M. cornuarietis is Oryza sativa (paddy rice) (Ortiz-Torres, 1962). Seedling rice plants may be killed by feeding, especially when there is no other source of food but the occurrence of this is low (Ortiz-Torres, 1962; Seaman and Porterfield, 1964).

Symptoms

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M. cornuarietis feeds on subsurface vegetation, typically severing stems and consuming these cuttings. 

List of Symptoms/Signs

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SignLife StagesType
Growing point / external feeding
Leaves / external feeding
Roots / external feeding
Stems / external feeding
Vegetative organs / external feeding
Whole plant / external feeding
Whole plant / plant dead; dieback
Whole plant / uprooted or toppled

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

M. cornuarietis has 14 haploid chromosomes (Lutfy and Demian, 1965). There evidently no dimorphic sex chromosomes. The presence of bands on the shell is under the control of a single locus gene, with the band-less condition being recessive (Dillon, 2003).

Reproductive Biology

M. cornuarietis is a dioecious (separate sexes), outcrossing species. Breeding tends to occur in spawning groups with a clutch size of 50-210 (Cowie, 2002). Keller et al. (2007) indicated the fecundity of M. cornuarietis to be in the order of 1700 eggs per female a year. Females are able to store sperm in the genital tract for months after copulation, enabling spawning to be delayed if necessary to coincide with return of favourable environmental conditions.

Physiology and Phenology

The productivity of M. cornuarietis populations is dependent on the availability of food and water temperature. At high temperatures and high abundance of food the lifecycle is short, such that only three months is required to reach sexual maturity and as many as three generations per year may be produced. Productivity is nonetheless curtailed by unfavourable conditions, such as drought and food shortages. There is some ambiguity as to the reproductive phenology of the species. Some authors have found that reproduction occurs throughout the year, while others have found marked seasonality in the reproductive cycle, with a two-month spawning season starting at the end of the calendar year. This variation has raised the possibility of cryptic species within what has been commonly considered M. cornuarietis (OECD 2010) or that the reproductive cycle is conditional on the environmental setting.

Longevity

Estimates of the longevity of M. cornuarietis indicate three years (Cowie, 2002). Nonetheless, the proportion surviving after 1 year was 0.03 in Sudan (Haridi et al., 1985) and 0.10 in Puerto Rico (Jobin, 1970). It is unclear from the current literature if individuals contribute to more than one generation in the field.

Activity Patterns

M. cornuarietis is a diurnally active species. It exhibits a degree of amphibiousness and is able to aestivate in muddy residues during periods of low water levels provided temperatures do not reach lethal levels. After hatching, young M. cornuarietis feed on the remains of the egg-mass for the first few days. Later they disperse locally to forage.

Population Size and Density

Within its introduced range, M. cornuarietis can achieve densities in the order of 50-175 per m2 (Haridi et al., 1985; Vargas et al., 1991). In North America, population densities were found to fluctuate greatly between years (Howells et al., 2006).

Nutrition

M. cornuarietis is omnivorous, though predominantly a generalist herbivore. The species feeds primarily on living and decaying aquatic macrophytes (Ferguson and Palmer, 1958; Robins, 1971), but will also graze algae. Some differences in food choices have been observed between adults and juveniles (Cedeno-Leon and Thomas, 1982). Food preferences under conditions of high water temperatures have been found to correlate with a preference for high protein diets (Hofkin et al., 1991). M. cornuarietis has been reported to predate on conspecific eggs (Demian and Lufty, 1965a), but Michelson and Augustine (1957) and Seaman and Porterfield (1964) indicated that adult Marisa do not destroy their own eggs or young. Predation on eggs and snails of other gastropod species has been well documented (Demian and Luffy, 1965a; Demian and Luffy 1965b; Demian and Luffy, 1966; Chi et al., 1971; Ferguson, 1977; Godan, 1979; Cedeno-Leon and Thomas, 1983; Hofkin et al., 1991; Pointier and Jourdane 2000).M. cornuarietis also predates on some other aquatic invertebrates (worms, microcrustaceans) and readily consumes carrion such as dead fish (Demian and Lutfy, 1966; Demian and Kamel, 1973; Cazzaniga and Estebenet, 1984; Hofkin et al., 1991; Stryker et al., 1991). Although M. cornuarietis will prey on other gastropods, laboratory observations of M. cornuarietis collected in Texas waters indicated that they consume other snails only when macrophytes are absent and the ampullariids are especially hungry (Howells et al., 2006). M. cornuarietis has a broad host range. In laboratory experiments, M. cornuarietis fed on Nasturtium oflicinale (watercress), a species of Cabomba and Elodea and Eichhornia crassipes (water hyacinth) (Ferguson and Palmer, 1958). In the field Xanthosoma atrovirens is commonly fed upon (Ferguson and Palmer, 1958) and in Puerto Rico, the density of native waterlily, Nymphaea ampla were substantially reduced (Peebles et al., 1972). The 1987 deliberate introduction of M. cornuarietis to Grand Etang lake in Guadeloupe was associated with rapid decline of Pistia stratiotes (water lettuce) (Pointier et al., 1991; Pointier, 1999). In the San Marcos and Comal Rivers of Texas, M. cornuarietis has been observed to graze on native Ludwigia repens (water primrose) and Vallisneria americana (tape grass) (Neck, 1984). M. cornuarietis may also feed on Oryza sativa (paddy rice) (Ortiz-Torres, 1962). Shortly after M.cornuarietis established in Coral Gables and Tamiami Trail canals near Miami, Florida, Seaman and Porterfield (1964) observed M. cornuarietis feeding on Cabomba caroliniana. In subsequent experiments M.cornuarietis was recorded feeding on Ceratophyllumdemersum (macrophytes coontail), Najas guadalupensis (southern naiad), Potamogeton illinoensis (Illinois pondweed), Salvinia minima (salvinia) and the invasive species Hydrilla verticillata and Alternanthera philoxeroides (alligatorweed).

Environmental Requirements

Being ectothermic, the biology of M. cornuarietis is critically dependent on ambient temperature, with influence on activity levels and rates of respiration, growth, reproduction and survival. In the field, M. cornuarietis has been observed to occur over the range 13-30°C, but temperatures in the range ~22-28°C are considered optimal. Within this range, M. cornuarietis eggs took 17 days at 22°C and 8 days at 28°C to hatch (Aufderheide et al., 2006) and growth rate of juveniles correspondingly increased (Aufderheide et al., 2006; Selck et al., 2006). Aufderheide et al. (2006) found rearing snails at temperatures between 22-28°C did not influence the rates of egg production or egg clutch size. M. cornuarietis is unable to tolerate low temperatures (Robins, 1971; Thomas, 1975; Cowie and Hayes, 2012). Egg development was found to cease at 11°C, although adults may survive for over 24 hours. Mortality was 100% after 8 h at 8°C. An intolerance of low temperatures has been considered a likely major factor in restricting establishment of M. cornuarietis in North America to thermally stable headwater springs, heated power plant reservoirs, or southern latitudes (Howells et al., 2006). Exposure to 40°C is lethal to M. cornuarietis within 1-4 hours. While foraging activity is normal at 33.5-35.5°C, eggs do not develop successfully at 35-37°C (Robins, 1971; Cowie and Hayes, 2012). M. cornuarietis has gills as well as a lung, to ensure efficient underwater respiration even in condition of low levels of dissolved oxygen. Nonetheless, M. cornuarietis is anoxia intolerant, surviving only brief periods without adequate oxygen supply (von Brand et al., 1950). M. cornuarietis exhibits some amphibiousity and is able to respirate exposed to air for a period, although oxygen uptake is slower than those during submerged aquatic respiration (Freiberg and Hazelwood, 1977). While freshwater habitat is required for breeding, M. cornuarietis is known to tolerate relatively high salt concentrations (Hunt, 1961; Robins, 1971; Santos et al., 1987) and they are occasionally found in brackish-waters. M. cornuarietis productivity is dependent on adequate calcium concentrations in the water (Dillon, 2000). An increase of calcium concentration from 25 to 100 mg/l has been shown to increase both survivorship and shell size (Meier-Brook, 1978).

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Quiscalus mexicanus Predator Adults not specific
Rostrhamus sociabilis Predator Adults not specific

Notes on Natural Enemies

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There have been very few studies of the natural enemies of M. cornuarietis. The great-tailed grackle, Quiscalus mexicanus, is a snail-eating bird common throughout the Americas. It was found to be a predator of M. cornuarietis in Florida (Seaman and Porterfield, 1964). The snail kite, Rostrhamus sociabilis, is widely distributed in the tropical Americas and feeds almost exclusively on ampullariids including M. cornuarietis (Snyder and Kale, 1983; Howells et al., 2006).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Natural Dispersal

Natural spread of M. cornuarietis in lotic systems has been reported by rafting downstream on floating macrophytes (Robins, 1971). In addition, M. cornuarietis can migrate upstream against a moderate current (Ferguson and Palmer, 1958).

Intentional Introduction

M. cornuarietis is popular in aquariums and sold internationally in aquarium shops servicing the pet/domestic aquarium trade and scientific laboratories. M. cornuarietis has been  intentionally introduced to several countries as a competitor and facultative predator of pest aquatic snails, especially those involved in transmission of schistosome trematodes. It was also introduced to several countries as a biological control agent for aquatic macrophyte weeds. However, the use of M. cornuarietis in biological control programmes is no longer considered an environmentally acceptable approach to management of parasite vectors and invasive aquatic weeds.

Accidental Introduction

The high risk pathway for introduction of M. cornuarietis into freshwater ecosystems is primarily associated with pet/ domestic aquarium trade and subsequent wild release/escape of specimens (Howells et al., 2006; Rawlings et al., 2007). A further pathway for spread is the aquatic plants trade to pond gardening, with snails and their eggs accidentally distributed along with their host plants.

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
AquacultureAssociated with aquatic plants Yes Yes
Biological controlIntroduced to various countries for control of snail intermediate hosts of Schistoma parasites, and Yes Yes
Escape from confinement or garden escapePotential for escape from garden ponds, for example in cases of flood transporting snails into water Yes
Flooding and other natural disastersPotential for dispersal in the advent of a flood, transporting snails throughout waterways Yes
Garden waste disposal Yes
HorticultureAssociated with aquatic plants Yes Yes
Interconnected waterwaysAssociated with flood debris, especially that of dislodged aquatic plants Yes
Landscape improvementAssociated with aquatic plants Yes Yes
Nursery tradeAssociated with aquatic plants Yes Yes
Pet trade Yes Yes
ResearchWidely utilized internationally as laboratory experiment animals Yes Yes

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Aquaculture stock Yes Yes
Clothing, footwear and possessionsEggs and snails potentially transported on clothing and equipment used in aquatic sports Yes
Floating vegetation and debrisEggs and snails associated with water transported vegetation debris Yes
Host and vector organismsEggs and snails associated with traded aquatic plants Yes
Pets and aquarium species Yes Yes
Plants or parts of plantsAssociated with aquatic plants Yes Yes
Ship hull foulingEggs and/or snails attached to hull in vessels operating in reshwater systems Yes
Water Yes

Plant Trade

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Plant parts not known to carry the pest in trade/transport
Bulbs/Tubers/Corms/Rhizomes
Growing medium accompanying plants
Leaves
Stems (above ground)/Shoots/Trunks/Branches

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Cultural/amenity Positive and negative
Economic/livelihood Positive and negative
Environment (generally) Negative

Economic Impact

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M. cornuarietis is sold in the aquarium trade and therefore has an economic impact but the value of this is unknown. Until recently M. cornuarietis was released as a biocontrol agent for aquatic weeds and pulmonate snails (hosts of Schistosoma) (Radke et al., 1961; Schuytema, 1977; Pointier, 1999; Pointier, 2001). As a biological control agent of aquatic macrophytes, M. cornuarietis offered economic benefits in irrigation canals, drainage canals and in inland waterways important for freight movement and a reduction in the need for active weed management (Horne et al., 1992). However, the use of M. cornuarietis in biological control programmes is no longer considered an environmentally acceptable.

The principal agricultural crop that may be adversely impacted by M. cornuarietis is Oryza sativa (paddy rice) (Ortiz-Torres, 1962). Seedling rice plants may be killed by feeding, especially when there is no other source of food but the occurrence of this is low (Ortiz-Torres, 1962; Seaman and Porterfield, 1964).

Environmental Impact

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Herbivory by M. cornuarietis in recreational and amenity waterbodies may reduce the need for active aquatic weed control. Such an effect of M. cornuarietis has been observed in Lake Landa in Texas, USA (Horne et al., 1992) and is consistent with observations of dramatic declines in aquatic macrophyte biomass following deliberate introductions of M. cornuarietis into waterbodies in various Caribbean and African countries (Jobin, 1970; Jobin et al., 1973; Nguma et al., 1982; Frandsen, 1987; Pointier et al., 1991; Pointier, 1999; Pointier and David, 2004).

However, M. cornuarietis feeds predominantly on living macrophytes. This diet, coupled with their large body mass, high reproductive output and often high densities mean these snails can effect rapid changes in macrophyte community structure, with consequent perturbations of nutrient balance, turbidity and trophic structure of water bodies (Horgan et al., 2014). These effects are likely most adverse in freshwater ecosystems where the native invertebrate food webs were primarily dominated by detritivores and thus where herbivorous macro-invertebrates were naturally uncommon. The effects on macrophyte community structure can, however, be expected to be density dependent (Jobin, 1970; Jobin et al., 1973; Nguma et al., 1982; Frandsen 1987; Pointier et al., 1991; Pointier, 1999; Pointier and David, 2004). For example, adventive M. cornuarietis populations in the southern USA exhibit high annual variations in density (Howells et al., 2006), with adverse effects on macrophytes when the population density becomes high (Horne et al., 1992; Howells et al., 2006). M. cornuarietis exhibits a broad macrophyte host range. Nonetheless, impacts are likely also to vary with macrophyte identity as M. cornuarietis can exhibit strong feeding preferences (Cedeno-Leon and Thomas, 1982; Grantham et al., 1993; Morrison and Hay, 2011) such that some macrophyte species will be strongly defoliated while others will suffer few effects.

Changes in aquatic macrophyte communities can have a significant effect on native aquatic species which utilise macrophytes as a habitat, food or oviposition sites. This potential has been adequately demonstrated for pulmonate species in biological control programmes utilizing M. cornuarietis as the control agent. Nonetheless, there have been few studies that examine the impact of habitat perturbations by M. cornuarietis on native species.

In Texas, M. cornuarietis is having a negative impact by reducing cover and spawning habitat of the endangered fountain darter, Etheostoma fonticola (Horne et al., 1992; Bonner and McDonald, 2005). A study by Phillips et al. (2010) provided evidence that M. cornuarietis predates on the eggs of E. fonticola. In addition to this, Zizania texana (Texas wild rice), confined to the upper San Marcos River, is threatened by the loss and degradation of its habitat (NatureServe, 2015). Herbivory by M. cornuarietis has not specifically been listed as a threatening process, although Neck (1984) suggested that it could adversely the species.

There is clear evidence that apple snails, including M. cornuarietis, are involved as intermediate hosts of trematode parasites and may therefore spread the parasite onto native species (Nasir et al., 1968; Nasir et al., 1969; Mattos et al., 2013; Pinto et al., 2015).

Threatened Species

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Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Etheostoma fonticola (fountain darter)No DetailsTexasCompetitionBonner and McDonald, 2005; Horne et al., 1992
Zizania texana (Texas wild-rice)USA ESA listing as endangered speciesTexasHerbivory/grazing/browsingNatureServe, 2015

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Tolerant of shade
  • Capable of securing and ingesting a wide range of food
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Gregarious
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
Impact outcomes
  • Altered trophic level
  • Damaged ecosystem services
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Host damage
  • Modification of natural benthic communities
  • Modification of nutrient regime
  • Modification of successional patterns
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of endangered species
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
  • Negatively impacts trade/international relations
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Herbivory/grazing/browsing
  • Predation
  • Rapid growth
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Difficult/costly to control

Uses

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Economic Value

M. cornuarietis occurs widely in aquaria but the economic value of this is unknown.

Social Value

The species is also widely used as model organism in scientific laboratories and in education due to its wide availability through the aquaria trade and ease of culture. The species has been utilised in a range of studies that include anatomy, ontogeny and development, physiology, reproductive biology and environmental toxicology.

M. cornuarietis was introduced into some areas for control of pulmonate snails (principally in families Planorbidae, Physidae and Lymnaeidae) that function as intermediate hosts of trematode parasites affecting humans and/or their livestock (Demian and Luffy, 1964; Msangi and Kihauli, 1972; Jobin et al., 1973; Nguma et al., 1982; Pointier et al., 1991; Pointier, 1999; Pointier and David, 2004; Pointier and Jourdane, 2000). The primary interest has been on control of pulmonate snails involved in transmission of Schistosoma trematodes that cause schistomiasis in humans, but several studies have examined control of Lymnaeidae as intermediate hosts of Fasciola hepatica, the liver fluke parasite of ungulates. The reduction in submerged aquatic macrophytes was considered a factor in reducing population densities of pulmonate snails that are depend on macrophytes for food, cover and oviposition sites. Although resistant to infection with Schistosoma species, M. cornuarietis may serve as a decoy for schistosome miracidia which are attached but fail to penetrate (Combes and Moné, 1987). Madsen (1990) concluded that “although there is evidence that some snail species may effectively compete with schistosome vector species under certain circumstances, there are limitations to their use, since their habitat preferences may only partially overlap with those of the intermediate hosts.” The use of M. cornuarietis for biocontrol has not been fully established and is no longer encouraged.

Environmental Services

M. cornuarietis has been evaluated experimentally and advocated as a biological control agent for macrophyte weeds in aquatic ecosystems and pulmonate snails. However, use of M. cornuarietis for such purposes is no longer promoted in recognition of the species’ adverse environmental impacts (Secor, 2014). 

Uses List

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Environmental

  • Biological control

General

  • Laboratory use
  • Pet/aquarium trade
  • Research model

Detection and Inspection

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Detection of M. cornuarietis involves physical searching for egg masses or snails, amongst submerged aquatic macrophytes to about 1m depth in still to slow-flowing freshwater systems. Due to their large size adult M. cornuarietis snails do not present difficulties for detection, although they may be confused with the great ramshorn snail (Planorbarius corneus). M. cornuarietis egg masses and juvenile snails by way of their much smaller size are more difficult to detect, particularly when associated with large quantities of aquatic plant material. The eggs of M. cornuarietis differ from the brightly coloured, hard-shell eggs of most apple snails (Ampullariidae) in that they are translucent and suspended in numbers within a clear jelloid mass. The may however be confused with the eggs of pulmonate snails of families Physidae, Planorbidae and Lymnaeidae.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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M. cornuarietis is similar in appearance to the closely related M. planogyra. However, M. planogyra is smaller at about 30 mm shell size, is more strongly planispiral, with both dorsal and ventral (umbilical) aspects strongly concave and openly perspective.

M.cornuarietis superficially resembles Planorbarius corneus because of the planispiral coiling of the shell. P. corneus is readily distinguished from M.cornuarietis in growing only to 35-40 mm shell size, the shell sinistral (left-coiling), shell lacking spiral colour bands, having the mantle cavity sealed but for a small contractile opening (pnuemostome), in being hermaphroditic with male and female reproductive organs within each individual, the male genitalia contained within the body cavity and only apparent externally when everted during copulation, lacking labial tentacles on the snout and lacking an operculum. The spawn of both species are similar, but embryos of P. corneus are reddish. Furthermore, while the hatchlings of both species are globose in shape, those of P. corneus lack an elevated spire.

Prevention and Control

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Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.

Prevention

SPS Measures

In recognition of the potential adverse effects on commercial crops, native vegetation and natural ecosystems of high conservation and ecosystem service values, a number of countries and states have imposed restrictions of importation, possession and movement of some or all species of the family Ampullariidae. The United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS), implemented regulations in 2006 to require importers and inter-state sellers of marine and freshwater aquatic snails to obtain a three-year permit; prohibit the importation or interstate movement of all members of the Family Ampullariidae (excluding Pomacea bridgesi, P. diffusa and Asolene spixi) and require routine inspection of shipments of aquatic plants and aquarium supplies that may contain aquatic snails. Additional regulations apply in some US states. For example, in Texas, M. cornuarietis was added to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) list of harmful or potentially harmful aquatic species in 1990. This legally prohibits possession, culture, sale and transport of this species. Ampullariidae are not prohibited or restricted in the State of Florida. Commercial aquaculturists culturing aquatic snails must annually acquire an Aquaculture Certificate of Registration from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, report the species they are culturing, include their certificate number on invoices and packaging and implement Aquaculture Best Management Practices. From August 2013, all species of Ampullariidae have been included in the Spanish legislation (Royal Decree 630/2013) as invasive species and listed in the Catálogo Español de Especies Exóticas Invasoras. Listing demands that procedures are in place to prevent introduction and establishment in Spain and its European territories. In the Australian state of New South Wales, Condition 47 of the Plant Quarantine Manual (NSW Department of Primary Industries, 2016) states “Any snail of the family Ampullariidae (Pilidae), including the golden apple snail (Pomacea canaliculata) are prohibited entry into the Rice Pest and Disease Exclusion Zone (RPDEZ).”

Control

Mechanical Control

It may be possible to physically remove larger individuals from incipient populations but once reproduction has occurred (indicated by presence of eggs and/or juveniles) then eradication is unlikely.

Chemical Control

Eradication of M. cornuarietis is theoretically possible by application of molluscicides over several years. Given that it is nonetheless very difficult to achieve 100% mortality due to differential susceptibility of individuals in populations and that likely rapid population resurgence from survivors and hatch from eggs may occur, repeat applications are required.

References

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Robins CH, 1971. Ecology of the introduced appel snail, Marisa cornuarietis (Ampullariidae) in Dade County, Florida. The Biologist, 53:136-152.

Roll U; Dayan T; Simberloff D; Mienis HK, 2009. Non-indigenous land and freshwater gastropods in Israel. Biological Invasions, 11(8):1963-1972. http://www.springerlink.com/content/77868kh054164441/fulltext.html

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Vázquez Perera AA; Perera Valderrama S, 2010. Endemic Freshwater molluscs of Cuba and their conservation status. Tropical Conservation Science, 3(2):190-199. http://tropicalconservationscience.mongabay.com/content/v3/10-06-28_190-199_Perera&Valderrama.pdf

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03/11/2016 Original text by:

Gary M. Barker, Consultant, Australia.

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