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).  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).  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 hydrobiids.  Invasive populations often seem entirely composed of females, reproducing by apomictic parthenogenesis.  Sexual reproduction is more common in New Zealand populations, however (Wallace 1985, 1992).  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).

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).   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).

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 evidence of this phenomenon, however.  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).  Potamopyrgus is 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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