FWGNA > Species Accounts > Viviparidae > Bellamya japonica
Bellamya japonica (von Martens 1861)
“Cipangopaludina” japonica
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> Habitat & Distribution

Although native to southeast Asia, Bellamya japonica (and the closely-related B. chinensis) were first introduced to North America in the late 1890s and have now spread throughout the United States, especially in New England and the Midwest (Cordeiro 2002).  The earliest record in our database is a 1962 lot in the USNM from Lake Warren, Pennsylvania.  We also have several records from the mid-1970s and mid-1980s in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Bellamya japonica populations seem to have arrived in the Carolinas in the mid-1990s (Anon. 1995).  As of the 2018 version of this website, Bellamya japonica is widespread in large hydroelectic impoundments throughout the Carolinas, including High Rock/Tuckertown Reservoir and Lakes Norman, Wylie, Bowen, Greenwood, Marion, Moultrie, and Hartwell.  We are not aware of any B. japonica populations in Kentucky or Tennessee as yet, but imagine they are coming.  FWGNA incidence rank I-4.

> Ecology & Life History

The initial introduction of Bellamya into the New World seems to have occurred in the oriental markets of the American west coast, as an item of food (Jokinen 1982). An anecdote relayed to me by North Carolina Fish and Game officials in 2005, involving fishermen of Laotian descent harvesting B. japonica from High Rock Reservoir by night, suggests that the rapid spread of Bellamya through the Carolinas in recent years may have been promoted by artificial “seeding.” See my essay of 6Oct05 (link below) for more.

“Water gardening” has, however, become a popular hobby throughout much of the US.  The retail stores that have developed to supply hobbyists with pond liners, pumps, goldfish and
ornamental lilies also commonly stock “mystery snails” or “trap-door snails” to clarify the water. These are almost always Bellamya.  So it is also certainly possible that most of the recent introductions in this country are simply excess snails casually dumped by water gardeners.

That Bellamya populations can, in fact, clarify the water in small ornamental ponds attests to their efficiency as filter-feeders. They probably also graze, or at least scavenge excess fish food (Raut 1986). But they most certainly do not consume macrophytes, lest their popularity with water gardeners who invest heavily in such plants should be short-lived.

Johnson et al. (2009) reported some experimental evidence that Bellamya invasion might have a negative impact on native populations of pulmonate snails, although this was not confirmed by field surveys (Solomon et al. 2010). In northern Wisconsin, Solomon and colleagues reported evidence of a positive correlation between the presence of Bellamya populations and general measures of lake productivity, such as conductivity and Secchi turbidity. But additional evidence of correlations between Bellamya and such measures of lake disturbance as boat landings and shoreline housing suggested to Solomon and his colleagues that Bellamya populations had not “saturated the landscape” even in Wisconsin, where their invasion apparently dates to the 1950s.  See my essay of 18Dec09 (link below) for more.

Although we are aware of no good study following the life history of B. japonica, Khan & Chaudhuri (1984) reported six-month maturation, followed by iteroparous reproduction, in an Indian population of Bellamya bengalensis (Bii of Dillon 2000: 156- 162).  Bellamya populations sometimes seem to reproduce explosively, then suffer dramatic crashes, as might be associated with semelparous reproduction (see my essay of 5Aug14 below). Chaine and colleagues (2012) estimated a population size of 253, 570 adult chinensis in a 6.47 ha Nebraska reservoir, 39% of which died the following year (Haak et al. 2013).  But it seems more likely to us that such mortalities may be better attributable to the colonization of marginal habitats as a consequence of population flushes accompanying invasion.

> Taxonomy & Systematics

Originally described by von Martens in the genus Paludina, the nomen japonica was transferred to Cipangopaludina by Hannibal (1912), appearing either as a subgenus of Viviparus (Clench & Fuller 1965) or accorded full generic status.  Smith (2000) pointed out, however, that the genus Bellamya (Jousseaume 1886) is generally preferred throughout the Old World. The characters used by Hannibal to differentiate Cipangopaludina appear to be variable or generally characteristic of viviparids reaching a relatively large size.

The two North American species, B. chinensis and B. japonica, have sometimes been confused or even synonymized. But Smith found no morphological overlap between the former (bearing a shell with more rounded shoulders) and the latter (with a more turreted shell), and recommended that the specific distinction be retained.  A photo comparing the two species, both as juveniles and as adults, is available from my blog post of 18Dec09 (link below).

> Supplementary Resources [PDF]

> Essays

  • Bellamya was mentioned parenthetically in my 29Oct03 essay on Invasive Viviparids in South Carolina. The distributional info is a bit obsolete, but there are several additional photos.
  • See my Bellamya News of 6Oct05 for items about Bellamya Ranching in North Carolina, Bellamya Roundup in Massachusetts, and Bellamya as a Model for Invertebrate Anatomy.
  • The Community Consequences of Bellamya Invasion in Wisconsin lakes were explored in my FWGNA blog post of 18Dec09.  There was also a nice photo comparing B. chinensis to B. japonica, both juvenile and adult.
  • My FWGNA blog post of 12Sept11, Dispatches from the Viviparid Front, included one item on a citizen's monitoring effort in Wisconsin (with links to some good references) and a second item on controlling Bellamya in Ontario by hand-picking. 
  • In Just Before The Bust (5Aug14) I described a B. japonica population explosion in the tailwaters of the the Wateree Dam in central South Carolina.  That post featured several striking in situ photos, including a high resolution jpeg of a "bed" of Bellamya apparently filter feeding like mussels.
  • I reviewed the Bellamya ("Cipangopaludina") records in the USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species database in my post of 16Oct15, To Only Know Invasives.  That essay featured two photos of B. chinensis shells, one of which was incorrectly labeled japonica by the USGS.
  • Unsurprisingly, Bellamya of many species are widely retailed through the online aquarium trade.  See my post of 24Jan18, Snails by Mail.

> References

Anon. (1995) Exotic Aquatics show up in South Carolina. South Carolina Wildlife, July-August, p. 48.
Anon. (2001) Technical Comittee Reports/Concerns, Exotics. American Fiseries Society Southern Division Newsletter, July, p. 16.
Benson, A. J., Fuller, P. L, & Jacono, C. C. (2001) Summary report of nonindigenous aquatic species in US Fish & Wildlife Service Region 4. USFWS, Arlington, Va, p. 60.
Chaine, N. M., C. Allen, K. Fricke, D. Haak, M. Hellman, R. Kill, K. Nemec, K. Pope, N. Smeenk, B. Stephen, D. Uden, K. Unstad & A. VanderHam (2012)  Population estimate of Chinese mystery snail (Bellamya chinensis) in a Nebraska reservoir.  BioInvasions Records 1: 283-287.
Clench, W. & Fuller, S. (1965)
The genus Viviparus in North America. Occas. Pprs. on Mollusks, Mus. Comp. Zool. Harvard, 2, 385-412.
Cordeiro, J. R. (2002) Proliferation of the Chinese mystery snail, Cipangopaludina chinensis malleata (Reeve, 1863) throughout Connecticut [Abstract]. Program and Abstracts of the 68th Meeting of the American Malacological Society, Charleston, SC (R. T. Dillon, ed.) p. 37.
Haak, D. M., N. M. Chaine, B. J. Stephen, A. Wong, & C. R. Allen (2013)  Mortality estimate of Chinese mystery snail, Bellamya chinensis in a Nebraska reservoir.  BioInvasions Records 2: 137-139.
Johnson, P., Olden, J., Solomon, C. & Vander Zanden, M. (2009) Interactions among invaders: community and ecosystem effects of multiple invasive species in an experimental aquatic system. Oecologia, 159:161-170. 
Jokinen, E. (1982) Cipangopaludina chinensis (Gastropoda: Viviparidae) in North America. Nautilus 96: 89 – 95.
Khan, R., & S. Chaudhuri (1984) The population and production ecology of a freshwater snail Bellamya bengalensis (Lamarck) (Gastropoda: Viviparidae) in an artificial lake of Calcutta, India. Bull. Zool. Surv. India, 5: 59-76.
Raut, S. (1986) Inhibition of fish growth by the freshwater snail Bellamya bengalensis. Environ. Ecol., 4: 332-333.
Smith, D.G. (2000) Notes on the taxonomy of introduced Bellamya (Gastropoda: Viviparidae) species in northeastern North America. Nautilus 114: 31-37.
Solomon, C., Olden, J., Johnson, P., Dillon, R. & Vander Zanden, M. (2010) Distribution and community-level effectsof the Chinese mystery snail (Bellamya chinensis) in northern Wisconsin lakes. Biological Invasions, 12:1591-1605. [PDF]
Stanczykowska, A., Magnin, E. & Dumouchel, A. (1971) Etude de trois populations de Viviparus malleatus (Reeve) de la region de Montreal. I. Croissance, fecondite, biomasse et production annuelle. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 49:1431-1441.
Stewart, T. & Dillon, R. (2004) Species composition and geographic distribution of Virginia's freshwater gastropod fauna: A review using historical records. American Malacological Bulletin, 19:79-91.
Therriault, T. & Kott, E. (2002-3) Cipangopaludina chinensis malleata (Gastropoda: Viviparidae) in southern Ontario: An update of the distribution and some aspects of life history. Malacological Review, 35-36:111-121.
Zhu, J., K. Lu & X. Liu (2013)  Can the freshwater snail Bellamya aeruginosa affect phytoplankton community and water quality?  Hydrobiologia 707: 147-157.