ON A RECENT TRIP TO VIRGINIA'S NORTHERN NECK I FOUND SOME OF THESE MYSTERY SNAILS, AMONGST OTHER THINGS.
Chinese and Japanese Mystery Snails (Bellamya chinensis, B. japonica)
|A few of the mystery snails among other debris collected at Caledon State Park|
|Following the trails guide on Boyd's Hole Trail|
|The beach along the Potomac River at Caledon State Park|
What’s so mysterious about mystery snails? Mystery snails are the largest freshwater snails in the region (max 3 inches). They have spiral shells with a door (operculum) used to seal themselves inside. Unlike most freshwater snails, they give birth to live young. The sudden appearance of baby snails surprised aquarists, hence the name mystery snails. The identification of these snails has been confused many times and there was debate about whether or not Japanese Mystery Snails (Bellamya japonica) and Chinese Mystery Snails (Bellamya chinensis) are actually the same species. A recent study shows that they are different species, but here they are lumped together. Mystery snails are native to Asia where they are a common food item. In 1892 they were imported to Chinese markets in San Francisco and by 1911 had established around San Jose and San Francisco. Over time the snails moved from the Chinese food markets into the aquarium trade and were transported across the country for use in aquarium and ornamental ponds. They are now widespread in ponds, lakes, and reservoirs from California to British Columbia and Florida to Quebec. The first reports of the snails in the Chesapeake region were in the 1960s when they were found in the Susquehanna and Potomac Rivers. They are now common in the Potomac and Susquehanna, but elsewhere in Chesapeake their abundance and distribution is unknown. Their shells are large and conspicuous, so let us know if you find them in a new river. Complete Record here.
*Information provided by Marine Invasions.