FWGNA > Species Accounts > Tateidae > Potamopyrgus antipodarum
Potamopyrgus antipodarum (Gray 1843)

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> Habitat & Distribution

Native to New Zealand, invasive populations of Potamopyrgus antipodarum first appeared in Europe in the mid-nineteenth century and in North America in the late-1980s (Ponder 1988, Zaranko et al. 1997).  At least two separate introductions seem to have occurred in US waters – a western population first discovered in the Snake River of Idaho (now spread as far as California and Arizona) and an eastern population first discovered in Lake Ontario, now spreading through the Great Lakes (Emblidge Fromme & Dybdahl 2006,  Dybdahl & Drown 2011).  It has been suggested that the western population comprises two primary clones and the eastern population a third (Bilka & Levri 2013, Levri et al 2014) although this is not well-documented.  A great number of clones seem to have evolved subsequent to the western introduction (Hershler, Liu & Clark 2010) in any case.

The first record of Potamopyrgus in any US Atlantic drainage seems to be a 2010 macrobenthic sample taken by the PA-DEP from Spring Creek, a tributary of the Susquehanna River in Centre County, PA.  In 2017 the snail spread about 50 km south, to the Gunpowder River just north of Baltimore, and shortly thereafter was discovered in the Musconetcong River of northwestern New Jersey.  Read more about all these discoveries from the essays linked below. 

Potamopyrgus populations seem to reach their highest concentrations in the shallows and backwaters of organically-rich rivers and streams.  They are often associated with recreational trout fisheries, spread either through bait bucket transport, or by gut passage in the fish themselves (Bondeson & Kaiser 1949).  See my essay of 19Nov13 from the link below for additional information regarding the Spring Creek introduction.

The habitat tolerance of Potamopyrgus is remarkably broad, however.  They seem to demonstrate little substrate specificity (Heywood & Edwards 1962). Levri and colleagues (2008) reported populations extending to a depth of 45 m in Lake Ontario.  Populations are not uncommon in the brackish waters of New Zealand and Europe, up to 27 ppt salinity (Todd 1964, Winterbourn 1970a, LeClair & Cheng 2011).  Resistance to drying has been studied by Poznanska and colleageus (2015), and freezing by Cheng & LeClair (2011).

Potamopyrgus antipodarum is pseudo-rare in our 15-state study area, FWGNA incidence rank I-2p.

> Ecology & Life History

Potamopyrgus is an ovoviviparous brooder, unique among the hydrobioids.  Invasive populations often seem entirely composed of females, apparently triploid, reproducing by apomictic parthenogenesis.  Sexual reproduction is more common in New Zealand populations, however (Wallace 1985, 1992, Soper et al. 2012).  The reproductive variety demonstrated by Potamopyrgus populations have made them a favorite model organism for studies on the origin and adaptive value of sex, especially with regard to parasitism (Lively 1989, 1992, Dybdahl & Lively 1996, 1998, Koskella & Lively 2009).

One year is required for maturity in the best-studied German and Dutch populations, with iteroparous reproduction thereafter (Frenzel 1979, Dahl & Winther 1993, Dorgelo et al. 2014).  This is life cycle Hi of Dillon (2000: 156-162).  In milder environments maturity may be reached in as little as 3 – 6 months, however, and subsequent reproduction continuous (Winterbourn 1970a).  McKenzie and colleagues (2013) reported that maturity was reached at approximately 3.2 mm standard shell length in an introduced Colorado population, with up to 70 embryos per brood sack.

Potamopyrgus diet seems to be extremely broad, ranging from diatoms and algae through aquatic macrophytes and detritus of terrestrial origin, up to the decaying tissues of other aquatic invertebrates (Reavell 1980, Hanlon 1981, Haynes & Taylor 1984, Winterbourn & Fegley 1989, Bilka & Levri 2013).

Substantial concern has been expressed regarding the ecosystem effects of invasive Potamopyrgus populations (Kjeldsen 1996), focusing especially the possibility that they might compete with elements of the native fauna.  Kerans et al. (2005) found little field evidence of this phenomenon, although the experiments of Riley & Dybdahl (2015) suggest that competition with native hydrobiid populations is possible at low resource levels.  Predators include triclads (Reynoldson & Piearce 1979) and various fishes (Hartley 1948, Vinson & Baker 2008).  A great variety of trematode parasites have been documented from Potamopyrgus populations (e.g. Winterbourn 1974, Dybdahl & Lively 1998, Levri et al. 2007).

> Taxonomy & Systematics

European populations of P. antipodarum were initially described as Hydrobia jenkinsi by E. A. Smith (1889), subsequently split to the genus Potamopyrgus.  Winterbourn (1970b, 1972) was the first to connect the European populations to their New Zealand source, synonymizing the nomen jenkinsi under antipodarum (Gray 1843).

Some Potamopyrgus populations demonstrate striking dimorphism (or polymorphism) in shell form, varying in shell robustness as well as in the presence or absence of periostracum spines (Haase 2003).  Kistner & Dybdahl (2014) documented parallel variance in shell shape between P. antipodarum and the native hydrobiid Pyrgulopsis robusta in the Snake River of Idaho, apparently in response to water flow variation.  Hoy & Rodriguez (2013) have documented striking levels of intragenomic ribosomal sequence variation in Oregon populations, correlating the phenomenon with polyploidy.

Potamopyrgus is now classified in the Tateidae, an Australasian taxon recently raised to the family level by Wilke and colleagues (2013). 

> Supplementary Resources [PDF]

> Essays

  • I posted a national round-up of Potamopyrgus news in 19Sept08,  Invaders Great and Small, together with some general thoughts on the biology of invasive species.
  • See my blog post of 19Nov13 for an essay announcing the discovery of Potamopyrgus in US Atlantic Drainages.
  • Boom-and-bust cycles in western populations of Potamopyrgus were mentioned parenthetically in my Bellamya essay of 5Aug14, Just Before The Bust.
  • Earlier versions of this website, online until August of 2016, adopted the large, broadly-inclusive concept of the Hydrobiidae (sl) following Kabat & Hershler (1993).  More recently the FWGNA project has shifted to the Wilke et al. (2013) classification system, distinguishing a much smaller Hydrobiidae (ss) and elevating many hydrobioid taxa previously ranked as subfamilies to the full family level.  For more details, see The Classification of the Hydrobioids.
  • The 2017 discovery of a second Atlantic-drainage population of Potamopyrgus, this in the Gunpowder River of Maryland, was featured in my blog post of 13June18, Invasive Species Updates.  There's also an in situ photo courtesy of Matt Ashton, MD-DNR.
  • I reported the third Atlantic-drainage population of New Zealand Mud snails in my post of  9July18, Potamopyrgus in New Jersey.

> References

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