Ecology: This species is found in freshwater low-flow lentic streams, lakes, and ponds. It is often present with soft, silty and/or rocky substrates, but is present in a variety of habitats, including sand and detritus bottoms (Duch, 1976; Browne, 1978). It is usually absent from larger, faster-flowing rivers (Katoh and Foltz, 1994); however, it can survive conditions of high water velocity in the St. Lawrence River, and may even be better adapted than the introduced Bithynia tentaculata (mud bithynia) to such habitat (Vincent, 1979). Individuals are generally found in waters with pH between 6.3 and 8.5. (Duch, 1976; Wade and Vasey, 1976; Vincent, 1979; Jokinen and Pondick, 1981; Pace and Szuch, 1985; Jokinen, 1992; Lee et al., 2002).
Viviparus georgianus often lives at high densities, sometimes up to 864/m2 (Lee et al., 2002; Pace and Szuch, 1985). It inhabits shallow waters, often amongst macrophytes, in spring to fall, before moving out to deeper areas to overwinter away from shore (Jokinen et al., 1982; Lee et al., 2002; Wade, 1985a), where it will burrow under the substrate for a period of inactivity (Pace and Szuch, 1985). In more open waters, fall migration begins earlier than in smaller lakes and ponds (Lee et al., 2002). Most growth generally occurs when waters become warmer in spring and summer, although reduced growth continues in winter (Browne, 1978; Jokinen et al., 1982).
The lifespan of the female banded mysterysnails is typically between 28–48 months, while males live between 18–36 months (Jokinen et al., 1982; Lee et al., 2002). The group is sexually dimorphic with females growing larger and faster than males, and reproductive females usually larger than 16 mm (Browne, 1978; Buckley, 1986).
Breeding takes place in the spring (Pace and Szuch, 1985). It is dioecious (distinctly male or female) and ovoviviparous, with females laying eggs singly in albumen-filled capsules and brooding them for 9-10 months; this species is one of very few gastropods to give birth to live young (Browne, 1978; Jokinen et al., 1982; Lee et al. 2002; Rivest and Vanderpool, 1986). Fecundity ranges from 4-81 young per female, but on average, is closer to 11 young per female (Jokinen, 1992; Vail, 1978). Females can brood more than one clutch of young at a time and the number of young in one brood is positively related to the size of the female (Vail, 1977). Some populations are known to reach sexual maturity within one or two years and reproduce iteroparously (more than once in life), while other populations have been known to breed semelparously (breed only once in life), not reaching sexual maturity until year three of life before dying (Dillon et al., 2006).
Viviparus georgianus is known to be a facultative, or even obligate, filter-feeding detritivore (Browne, 1978; Lee et al., 2002). This species grazes on diatom clusters found on silt and mud substrates, but may require the ingestion of some grit to break down algae (Duch, 1976). With a variable diet, it will readily consume a herbivorous diet of algae and diatoms, but will also consume fish eggs (Duch, 1976; Eckblad and Shealy, 1972; Jokinen et al., 1982; Lee et al. 2002; Mackie et al., 1980).
Impact of Introduction: Viviparus georgianus has been shown to significantly reduce survival of largemouth bass eggs in guarded nests both in the laboratory and in ponds, and may contribute to high incubation mortality seen in natural field settings (Eckblad and Shealy, 1972).
Various fish and bird species are known to feed on the snail (Eckblad and Shealy, 1972; Smith, 2007).
This species is known to be the intermediate host for trematodes and has, as a result, been involved in spreading parasites to aquatic birds, resulting in large avian die-offs. In 2007, over 3,000 scaup and coots died in a Northern Wisconsin lake as a result of ingesting the infected, non-native snails, with many more birds unable to fly because of the infection. (Smith, 2007).
This species has been documented in high densities where present, and to be more successful in the north, further from its known native range (Dillon et al., 2006). It is often the dominant member of the macrofauna in its trophic level, both in number and function (Browne, 1978).
Because some populations of the banded mysterysnail are semelparous (dying off after one breeding event), this can create a large concentration of dead snails in habitats and leave behind significant shell debris (Dillon et al., 2006).
References: (click for full references)
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Buckley, D.E. 1986. Bioenergetics of age-related vs. size-related reproductive tactics in female Viviparus georgianus. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 27(4):293-310.
Clench, W.J. 1962. A catalogue of the Viviparidae of North America with notes on the distribution of Viviparus georgianus. Occasional Papers on Mollusks 2(27):261-287.
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David, A.A., Zhou, H., Lewis, A., Yhann, A., and S. Verra. 2017. DNA barcoding of the banded mystery snail, Viviparus georgianus in the Adirondacks with quantification of parasitic infection in the species. American Malacological Bulletin 35(2):175-180.
Duch, T.M. 1976. Aspects of the feeding habits of Viviparus georgianus. The Nautilus 90(1):7-10.
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