FWGNA > Species Accounts > Viviparidae > Viviparus georgianus
Viviparus georgianus (Lea 1834)
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> Habitat & Distribution

Although originally described from the Altamaha River, Viviparus georgianus is not common in Georgia, nor indeed through most Atlantic drainages of the South.  We are aware of two relatively recent introductions, however - a population inhabiting Buggs Island Lake at V georgianus mapOcconeechee State Park in southern Virginia, called to our attention in 2006, and a population introduced into the Santee-Cooper Lakes of South Carolina, perhaps in the mid-1990s.  By 2015 the South Carolina population had spread north up the Catawba/Wateree River to Lake Wylie on the North Carolina line.  Clench (1962) reported several records from the Potomac River near Washington that we have been unable to confirm (K. A. Hayes, pers. comm.)

Further north, Viviparus georgianus can be even more invasive.  Clench (1962) gave the natural range of V. georgianus as “north central Florida, Georgia, Alabama and north, mainly in the Mississippi River system, to Illinois and northwest Indiana,” suggesting that the occurrence of the species throughout the northeast and into Canada represents a recent (and often human-mediated) invasion.  Indeed, V. georgianus seems much more successful in northern latitudes than it does in Georgia, from whence it was described.  FWGNA incidence rank I-4.

> Ecology & Life History

Cook (1949) has documented filter feeding (or perhaps “ciliary feeding” is more descriptive) in the European V. viviparus.  But standard grazing also seems to be an option.  The experiments of Duch (1976) convincingly demonstrated both a preference for silt-mud substrate over rock bottom in V. georgianus, and a strong orientation toward silt containing diatoms.  The Lake Marion snails were commonly observed associated with macrophytes early in the brief history of their invasion, but recently are more commonly collected burrowing in sand.  The experiments of Studier & Pace (1978) suggest that substrate preference in Viviparus may be more a function of the food it contains than its texture.

Northern V. georgianus populations show a broad range of life cycle pattern, maturing in a single year and reproducing iteroparously (Browne 1978), maturing in two years and reproducing iteroparously (Buckley 1986), and maturing in three years followed by semelparous reproduction (Jokinen et al. 1982).  Applying the classification system of Dillon (2000: 156 – 162) these would be life cycle patterns G, Hi, and T, respectively. Browne reported a 9-month gestation period (June – March) in his New York populations.  The mortality that may follow reproduction (perhaps natural in some populations) can yield spectacular accumulations of dead shell.  The energetic data collected by Browne (1978) suggested to Dillon (2000: 126 – 131) that V. georgianus is Undifferentiated with regard to its life history adaptation.

Jokinen’s (1987) analysis of the distribution of V. georgianus in Connecticut and New York led her to classify it as an “A-B tramp,” typically present only in the more species-rich communities.  Minnesota populations of V. georgianus have been implicated as the primary intermediate host for digenean trematodes causing significant waterfowl mortalities.  See my essay of 14Nov07 from the link below.

> Taxonomy & Systematics

The taxonomy of American Viviparus has been stable since the brief monograph of Clench & Fuller (1965).  According to Clench (1962), synonyms include contectoides (Binney 1865), fasciata (Tryon 1870), and walkeri (Pilsbry & Johnson 1912).  The allozyme study of Katoh & Foltz (1994) has suggested, however, that populations referred to V. georgianus in Florida may represent as many as three cryptic species: goodrichi and limi in the panhandle and georgianus (s.s.) further east.

Clarke (1981) noted the striking similarity between invasive, Canadian populations of V. georgianus and the European Viviparus viviparus, speculating that northern Viviparus populations might represent a cryptic invasion from Europe.  We think Clarke's cryptic invasion hypothesis might explain the peculiarities of V. georgianus distribution in The South as well.

> Supplementary Resources [PDF]

> Essays

  • I posted an essay on invasive viviparids in South Carolina to the FWGNA web site on 29Oct2003. There are links to several additional photos. See Invasive Viviparids in South Carolina
  • In 2007 Viviparus georgianus was implicated as the primary intermediate host for digenean trematodes causing massive waterfowl mortalities in Minnesota. See Ducks, Snails, and Worms - When Invasive Species Conspire!
  • My FWGNA blog post of 12Sept11, Dispatches from the Viviparid Front, included an item on a citizen's effort to monitor invasive viviparids (of all species) in Wisconsin, with links to some good references
  • I reviewed all the Viviparus records in the USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species database while researching my post of 16Oct15, "To Only Know Invasives."  I didn't find any well-documented populations here in The East previously unknown to me.

> References

Aldridge, D.W., Russell-Hunter, W. D., & Buckley, D.E. (1986) Age-related differential catabolism in the snail, Viviparus georgianus, and its significance in the bioenergetics of sexual dimorphism. Can. J. Zool. 64: 340-346.
Browne, R. A. (1978) Growth, mortality, fecundity, biomass and productivity of four lake populations of the prosobranch snail, Viviparus georgianus. Ecology 59: 742-750.
Buckley, D.E. (1986) Bioenergetics of age-related versus size-related reproductive tactics in female Viviparus georgianus . Biol. J. Linn. Soc. 27: 293-309. 
Clarke, A.  (1981)  
The Freshwater Molluscs of Canada.  National Museums of Canada.  445 pp.
Clench, W. (1962) A catalogue of the Viviparidae of North America with notes on the distribution of Viviparus georgianus, Lea. Occas. Pprs. on Mollusks, Mus. Comp. Zool. Harvard, 2, 261-87.
Clench, W. & Fuller, S. (1965) The genus Viviparus in North America. Occas. Pprs. on Mollusks, Mus. Comp. Zool. Harvard, 2, 385-412.
Cook, P. (1949)  A ciliary feeding mechanism in Viviparus viviparus (L). Proc. Malacol. Soc. Lond. 27: 265-271.
Dillon, R. T. (2000)  The Ecology of Freshwater Molluscs.  Cambridge University Press.  509 pp.
Duch, T. (1976
)  Aspects of the feeding habits of Viviparus georgianus.  Nautilus 90: 7-10.
Jokinen, E. (1987) Structure of freshwater snail communities: Species-area relationships and incidence categories.  Amer. Malac. Bull. 5: 9 - 19.
Jokinen, E.H., Guerette, J, & Kortmann, RW (1982) The natural history of an ovoviviparous snail, Viviparus georgianus (Lea), in a soft-water eutrophic lake. Freshwat. Invertebr. Biol. 1: 2-17.
Katoh, M. & Foltz, D. W. (1994) Genetic subdivision and morphological variation in a freshwater snail species complex formerly referred to as Viviparus georgianus (Lea). Biol. J. Linn. Soc. 53: 73-90.
Studier, E & Pace, G. (1978)  Oxygen consumption in the prosobranch snail Viviparus contectoides. IV.  Effects of dissolved oxygen level, starvation, density, symbiotic algae, substrate composition and osmotic pressure.  Comp. Bioch. Physiol. A  59: 199 - 204.
Vail, V.A. (1977) Comparative reproductive anatomy of 3 viviparid gastropods. Malacologia, 16: 519-520.
Vail, V.A. (1978) Seasonal reproductive patterns in 3 viviparid gastropods. Malacologia, 17: 73-97.