Chinese Mystery Snail

Cipangopaludina chinensis malleata (syn. Bellamya chinensis)

Chinese_Mystery_Snail_9-8-16.jpg

Photo of two Chinese mystery snails, on a white background, with a ruler nearby for scale.
The Chinese mystery snail is an invasive species quickly taking over urban waters throughout the state.
D. Spalsbury, Kansas Dept. Wildlife and Parks, Bugwood.org
Invasive
Other Common Name
Chinese Mysterysnail; Asian Apple Snail; Oriental Mystery Snail
Family

Viviparidae (large operculate freshwater snails) in the order Architaenioglossa (having gills and often an operculum)

Description

The shell of the Chinese mystery snail is large, spherical, and smooth. The outer shell is light to dark olive green to brownish. The inner shell is white to pale blue. The operculum (“trapdoor”) is concentrically marked, with uniform color throughout, and no banding. The shell can have 6 to 8 whorls. The whorls are strongly rounded, and each suture where the whorls join is very indented. The outer lip is blackish and either round or oval.

Size

Shell length: up to 2½ inches

Habitat and conservation

Chinese mystery snails can live in lakes, ponds, rice fields, irrigation and roadside ditches, and calm portions of streams where there is a soft mud substrate. People should never release aquarium species or aquarium water into natural aquatic habitats. Also, learn about and practice "clean boating" so that you do not accidentally spread invasive mystery snails, zebra mussels, and/or a host of invasive aquatic plants from one body of water to another. Finally, learn how to identify invasive animals and plants, so you can report them and help protect our natural ecosystems.

Foods

Chinese mystery snails feed on algae, zooplankton (tiny, drifting animal life), and phytoplankton (tiny, drifting plant life).

image of Chinese Mystery Snail Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Found in at least 11 counties in Missouri.

Status

Invasive.

Life cycle

This snail stays partially buried in the mud where water is slow. The females do not lay eggs; instead, they give birth to live, crawling young. A female can give birth to 169 young or more in a lifetime, and a single brood may have 102 young. Females can live up to five years, while males only live to about three. This species of snail has an operculum, which is like a “trap door” that allows them to close their shells to protect them from predators and to keep them from drying out if they are temporarily out of water.

Human connections

Mystery snails have been imported to our country by the aquarium industry as well as for Asian food markets. Some releases were probably from hobbyists, and others may have been deliberate in an effort to create a local food source. This exotic snail species can transmit diseases to humans and clog water intake pipes.

Ecosystem connections

Chinese mystery snails can serve as vectors for the transmission of parasites and diseases to our native aquatic species. Missouri has approximately 60 species of snails native within our borders; this is not one of them. Chinese mystery snails compete with our native snails for food and space.