, Volume 646, Issue 1, pp 243-251
Date: 01 Mar 2010

Pink eggs and snails: field oviposition patterns of an invasive snail, Pomacea insularum, indicate a preference for an invasive macrophyte

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Abstract

Oviposition of non-calcareous or thinly shelled eggs represents an important life stage of many insects, amphibians, and several gastropods. A recently identified invasive species of apple snail, Pomacea insularum, exhibits alarming invasive characteristics of high reproductive rates and generalist consumption patterns. This snail takes the opposite approach to egg laying compared to most aquatic insects as adult snails crawl out of the water to place clutches on emergent, or terrestrial, substrates. As fecundity best indicates invasive potential for mollusks, control or management efforts need to understand reproductive behavior in P. insularum to predict, and hopefully impede, its spread throughout the Gulf Coast of the United States. Specific characteristics of wetlands and shallow lakes may facilitate the invasion process of P. insularum by providing females with conditions that permit successful oviposition. In order to investigate this possibility, we studied P. insularum oviposition behavior in an invasive population at two times during the reproductive season in Texas, USA. Based on a subsequent survey (August 2009), plants comprised 78% of the available habitat. Wild taro (Colocasia esculenta) and alligator weed (Alternanthera philoxeroides) represented 48 and 43% of that proportion, respectively. During 2008–2009, no new concrete or metal structures appeared in our sampling reach and consistent amounts of plant stands and woody debris remained dominant. Given this distribution, P. insularum laid disproportionately more clutches on wild taro compared to its availability and less on alligator weed and bulrush (Schoenoplectus californicus) than expected. Owing to limited metal and concrete substrates, we found a higher proportion of clutches on these artificial substrates than expected in both May and August 2008. However, artificial substrates comprised less than 2% of available substrates in the bayou. Our results suggest that wetlands and shallow lakes surrounded by large emergent macrophytes, particularly wild taro, likely provide ideal oviposition sites for P. insularum, promote egg supply, and possibly facilitate invasion into new aquatic ecosystems.

Guest editors: M. Meerhoff, M. Beklioglu, R. Burks, F. García-Rodríguez, N. Mazzeo & B. Moss / Structure and Function of World Shallow Lakes: Proceedings from the 6th Shallow Lakes Congress, held in Punta del Este, Uruguay, 23–28 November, 2008