Species Profile: Chinese Mysterysnail

Our goal here at invasivore.org is to provide one stop where you can satisfy your craving for stimulating ecological knowledge and delectable recipes.  In this spirit, occasionally we will celebrate “species weeks” where we will feature a different invasive species, providing updates over the course of the week about the history of that species’ invasion, its ecological impacts, the economic and cultural aspects of the invasion, and, of course, recipes utilizing the featured species!

So without further ado, let’s jump right in.  Welcome to SNAIL WEEK!

Our feature this week is the Chinese mysterysnail Cipangopaludina chinensis.  This freshwater gastropod, native to

Adult Chinese mysterysnail. Photo courtesy of USGS NAS Database

southeastern China northward to Japan and eastern Russia, occurs in at least 27 states (see the map from the United States Geological Survey Nonindigenous Aquatic Species database below).  As far as snails go, the Chinese mysterysnail is even quite charismatic, growing to be approximately the size of a golf ball and reaching densities around 100 snails per square meter!

Despite its widespread occurrence and high population densities, few studies describe even basic ecology and ecosystem impacts of the species.  We’re not entirely sure what it eats, but there is limited evidence to suggest that the Chinese mysterysnail may displace native snail species (some will be reviewed in a future invasivore blog post).  But at such high densities, the Chinese mysterysnail is hard to ignore.  Adding to its mystery, the Chinese mystery snail has appeared in the literature under many different scientific names, including Bellamya chinensis, Cipangopaludina malleata, Viviparus malleatus, V. chinensis, and V. japonicas. The sparse published literature indicates that C. chinensis first arrived in North America for sale for human consumption in Asian markets (Wood 1892, The Nautilus 5: 114-115).

To summarize so far, the Chinese mysterysnail is a large snail that can reach impressive densities, and it has a history of human consumption.  We had better start eating!  The next entry in this series will describe how to find and prepare the snail, and we will unveil the first recipe on invasivore.org, mysterysnail fettuccine.

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