Viviparus georgianus
Viviparus georgianus
(banded mysterysnail)
Native Transplant
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Viviparus georgianus (I. Lea, 1834)

Common name: banded mysterysnail

Synonyms and Other Names: banded mysterysnail, banded applesnail, pondsnail

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Viviparus georgianus has a relatively globose, dextral shell with 4–5 whorls separated by distinct sutures. The outer lip of the shell is quite thin (Jokinen 1992) and the overall coloration is yellow-green. There are abundant rows of hairs with distinctly hooked ends and ridges on the periostracum. The umbilicus is narrow or not apparent, and the operculum is round to oval with concentric circular markings that radiate from an off-centre origin located towards the top left. There are always 4 darkly pigmented bands that wrap around the shell spirally, but which are sometimes only visible from inside (Jokinen 1984, Jokinen 1992, Mackie et al. 1980).

Size: One-year old snails are 12–17 mm high; at 2 years, 17–21 mm high; and at 3 years, 21–30 mm high (Lee et al. 2002). The maximum height is 45 mm (Jokinen 1992).

Native Range: The banded mysterysnail is native to North America, generally found from the northeastern United States to Florida and the Gulf of Mexico (Jokinen 1992) primarily south central Florida, Georgia, Alabama and north, mainly in the Mississippi River system, to Illinois and northwestern Indiana (Clench 1962).

The recent study that found that V. georgianus is a species complex in North America found that V. limi is native to the Ochlockonee River and southwestern Georgia, while V. goodrichi is in the Florida panhandle and southwestern Georgia and V. georgianus is in eastern and southern Florida as well as the Altamaha River in Georgia (Katoh and Foltz 1994). Other populations in the Altamaha, Mississippi and St. Lawrence River basins have not been studied yet with respect to their specific genetic make-up and so are named as part of the V. georgianus species complex (Katoh and Foltz 1994).

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Nonindigenous Occurrences: It was first introduced into the Hudson River basin of New York in 1854 (Strayer 1987) and has since invaded Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New England and Quebec (Clench 1962). In South Carolina, this species has been found in Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie prior to 2008 (Dillon et al. 2006).

Mid-Atlantic Region: Niagara River, Erie Canal, Hudson River drainage in New York and possibly Lake Champlain.  Established in the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland (Ruiz et al. 2000).

Great Lakes Region:  The first record of this species in the Great Lakes basin most likely came from the Hudson River drainage, via the Erie Canal and Mohawk River, in 1867 (Mills et al. 1993). It was later reported from the Lake Michigan watershed by 1906 and Lake Erie by 1914. Other records are from 1931 near Buffalo, Lake Erie and the Niagara River (Mills et al. 1993). The New York State Museum has records from the 1950s and 1960s from 11 counties (Jokinen 1992). Mackie et al. (1980) list this species as recorded from Lake Huron but do not give date of establishment or any references. In 2014, specimens were collected for the first time from Lake Superior (J. Myers, personal communication). The location was Waiska Bay, near the outlet of the lake (St. Marys River).

Ecology: Found in lakes and slow-moving rivers with mud bottoms.  This species thrives in eutrophic lentic environments such as lakes, ponds and some low-flow streams (Lee et al. 2002). It is usually absent from larger, faster flowing rivers (Katoh and Foltz 1994); however, it is able to survive conditions of high water velocity in the St. Lawrence River, and may even be better adapted than the introduced Bithynia tentaculata to such habitat (Vincent 1979). Individuals are generally found in a range of habitats, including: regions with silt and mud substrate; communities dominated by diatoms and filamentous algae (not blue-green algae); shallow waters with sand or gravel substrate; soft and hard water; waters with pH between 6.3 and 8.5; freshwater habitats only; river reaches more than meanders (Duch 1976, Jokinen 1992, Jokinen and Pondick 1981, Lee et al. 2002, Pace and Szuch 1985, Vincent 1979, Wade and Vasey 1976). 

Viviparus georgianus breeds and lives in shallow waters, often amongst macrophytes, in spring to fall, then moves out to deeper areas in the fall in order to overwinter away from shore (Jokinen et al. 1982, Lee et al. 2002, Wade 1985a). 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).

It is dioecious, iteroparous and ovoviviparous, laying eggs singly in albumen-filled capsules (Browne 1978, Lee et al. 2002, Rivest and Vanderpool 1986).  Females generally brood eggs for 9–10 months (Jokinen et al. 1982, Rivest and Vanderpool 1986). Fecundity is generally between 4 and 81 young/female, but on average is closer to 11 young/female (Jokinen 1992, Vail 1978). Females can brood more than one batch of young at a time and the number of young in one brood is positively related to the size of the female (Vail 1977). Reproductive females are usually larger than 16 mm (Buckley 1986). Female banded mystery snails live 28–48 months and males live 18–36 months (Jokinen et al. 1982, Lee et al. 2002). 

Viviparus georgianus is known to be a facultative or even obligate filter-feeding detritivore and thus can be used as a bioindicator of sediment contamination by oil and fertilizer, because growth, survival and histology are significantly affected by ingestion of contaminated sediments (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).

The banded mysterysnail often lives at high densities, sometimes up to around 864/m2 (Lee et al. 2002, Pace and Szuch 1985).

It is host to many parasites in its native habitat, including cercaria, metacercaria, ciliated protozoans, annelids, and chironomid larvae (Wade 1985b).

Means of Introduction: The earliest introduction of this species to the Hudson River drainage was made by an amateur conchologist who purposefully released around 200 of these snails simultaneously into the river (Jokinen 1992, Mills et al. 1993). The snail probably dispersed by itself following this event, but more recent introductions were likely made via release from aquaria (Mills et al. 1993).

Status: This species is considered established in the drainage systems of Lakes Michigan, Erie, and Ontario (Mills et al. 1993).

Impact of Introduction:  

A) Realized: At present there are no known impacts associated with this introduced species in the Great Lakes basin.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that mallard ducks are adapting to foraging on this species in Lake George, New York.

B) Potential: 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).  This species may prey on fish embryos.

Remarks: This species very similar to the European Viviparus viviparous.

This species is considered rare in the states of Connecticut and Massachusetts (Jokinen and Pondick 1981). It is possible that some introduced populations could actually be V. viviparus, which is a European species that is indistinguishable from V. georgianus (Mills et al. 1993).

A recent study that found that V. georgianus in its native range in the United States is actually a species complex that includes the genetically distinct V. georgianus, V. goodrichi and V. limi (Katoh and Foltz 1994). Each species displays morphological differences in shell shape, aperture shape and extent of sexual dimorphism (Katoh and Foltz 1994).

Collections of this snail outside its native range date back to the early 1900s (Clench, 1962).

References: (click for full references)

Browne, R.A. 1978. Growth, mortality, fecundity, biomass and productivity of four lake populations of the prosobranch snail, Viviparus georgianus. Ecology 59(4):742-750.

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 2:261-287.

Dillon, R.T., Jr., B.T. Watson, T.W. Stewart, and W.K Reeves. 2006. The freshwater gastropods of North America. Accessed on 03/12/2013.

Duch, T.M. 1976. Aspects of the feeding habits of Viviparus georgianus. The Nautilus 90(1):7-10.

Eckblad, J.W., and M.H. Shealy, Jr. 1972. Predation on largemouth bass embryos by the pond snail. Trans. Am. Fish. Soc. 101: 734-738.

Jokinen, E.H. 1984. Periostracal morphology of viviparid snail shells. Transactions of the American Microscopical Society 103(4):312-316.

Jokinen, E. 1992. The Freshwater Snails (Mollusca: Gastropoda) of New York State. The University of the State of New York, The State Education Department, The New York State Museum, Albany, New York 12230. 112 pp.

Jokinen, E.H., and J. Pondick. 1981. Rare and endangered species: freshwater gastropods of southern New England. The Bulletin of the American Malacological Union, Inc. 50:52-53.

Jokinen, E.H., J. Guerette, and R.W. Kortmann. 1982. The natural history of an ovoviviparous snail Viviparus georgianus in a soft water eutrophic lake. Freshwater Invertebrate Biology 1(4):2-17.

Katoh, M., and D.W. Foltz. 1994. Genetic subdivision and morphological variation in a freshwater snail species complex formerly referred to as Viviparus georgianus (Lea). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 53(1):73-90.

Lee, L.E.J., J. Stassen, A. McDonald, C. Culshaw, A.D. Venosa, and K. Lee. 2002. Snails as biomonitors of oil-spill and bioremediation strategies.  Bioremediation Journal 6(4):373-386.

Mackie, G.L., D.S. White, and T.W. Zdeba. 1980. A guide to freshwater mollusks of the Laurentian Great Lakes with special emphasis on the genus Pisidium. Environmental Research Laboratory, Office of Research and Development, U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, Duluth, Minnesota 55804. 144 pp.

Mills, E.L., J.H. Leach, J.T. Carlton, and C.L. Secor. 1993. Exotic species in the Great Lakes: a history of biotic crises and anthropogenic introductions. Journal of Great Lakes Research 19(1):1-54.

Myers, J.  2016. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Personal communication (April 5, 2016).

Pace, G.L., and E.J. Szuch. 1985. An exceptional stream population of the banded apple snail Viviparus georgianus in Michigan, USA. Nautilus 99(2-3):48-53.

Rivest, B.R., and R. Vanderpool. 1986. Variation in capsule albumen in the freshwater snail Viviparus georgianus. American Zoologist 26(4):41A.

Ruiz, G.M., P.W. Fofonoff, J.T. Carlton, M.J. Wonham, and A.H. Hines. 2000. Invasion of coastal marine communities in North America: Apparent patterns, processes, and biases. Annual Review of Ecological Systematics 31:481-531.

Strayer, D. 1987. Ecology and zoogeography of the freshwater mollusks of the Hudson River Basin. Malacological Review 20:1-68.

Vail, V.A. 1977. Observations on brood production in three viviparid gastropods. Bulletin of the American Malacological Union, Inc. 43:90.

Vail, V.A. 1978. Seasonal reproductive patterns in 3 viviparid gastropods. Malacologia 17(1):7-98.

Vincent, B. 1979. Étude du benthos d’eau douce dans le haut-estuaire du Saint-Laurent (Québec). Canadian Journal of Zoology 57(11):1271-2182.

Wade, J.Q. 1985a. Studies of the gastropods of Conesus Lake, Livingston County, New York, USA II. Identification, occurrence and ecology of species. Proceedings of the Rochester Academy of Science 15(3):206-212.

Wade, J.Q. 1985b. Studies of the gastropods of Conesus Lake, Livingston County, New York, USA III. Endozoic and parasitic organisms obtained from gastropods. Proceedings of the Rochester Academy of Science 15(3):213-215.

Wade, J.Q., and C.E. Vasey. 1976. A study of the gastropods of Conesus Lake, Livingston County, New York. Proceedings of the Rochester Academy of Science 13(1):17-22.

Other Resources:

Great Lakes Water Life -  Great Lakes Sea Grant

Author: Kipp, R.M., A.J. Benson, J. Larson, and A. Fusaro

Revision Date: 4/5/2016

Citation Information:
Kipp, R.M., A.J. Benson, J. Larson, and A. Fusaro, 2018, Viviparus georgianus (I. Lea, 1834): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL,, Revision Date: 4/5/2016, Access Date: 2/25/2018

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.

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Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2018]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [2/25/2018].

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