Invasive Snails Are Becoming More Destructive In America’s Western Regions

Invasive Snails Are Becoming More Destructive In America’s Western Regions

You would be surprised at how many invasive organisms reach the United States each year. Hundreds of non-native insects enter the United States each year, but not all of these non-native insects are considered invasive. All invasive insects are non-native, but only non-native insects that cause harm to the natural environment are considered “invasive”. Experts do not know the precise number of non-native insects in the US today, but the most common estimate is fifty thousand. However, only forty three hundred of these estimated fifty thousand non-native insects are considered invasive. But invasive insects are not the only non-native organisms that have a negative effect on a region’s ecosystem. For example, the US is home to many invasive plants. And one invasive organism that is of serious concern today is a particular type of snail. Snails, unlike insects and spiders, are not arthropods; instead snails belong to the mollusca phylum in the gastropoda class. Although it sounds strange, there is one invasive snail species that is becoming more and more threatening to America’s environment and economy. These snails are referred to as New Zealand mudsnails.

Ever since mudsnails were discovered in Idaho back in 1987, the negative environmental impact caused by these snails has only been increasing. Due to global warming and many other factors NZ mudsnails have been expanding their range across the western portion of the US. When these snails migrate to new regions, the damage that they cause seems to evolve. This is due to the relationships that these snails create with other organisms that dwell within particular regions. Once NZ mudsnails establish themselves in a stream or lake, they are extremely difficult, or nearly impossible to remove without causing damage to the natural environment.

These snails are well adapted to many different waterbodies, including ones with high salinity, extremely high or low temperatures and even lakes and streams that are highly polluted. These snails can use a part of their shells, called the "operculum", to protect themselves from dangerous chemicals. This is one reason why chemical eradication methods often fail. The NZ mudsnails reproduce rapidly through cloning. A region containing one single mudsnail can result in billions of mudsnails in just a four year period. These mudsnails disrupt the food chain by consuming mass amounts of algae, which results in decreased fish populations. NZ mudsnails are found in regions from Lake Powell in Arizona all the way up to Washington, and as far east as the Great Lakes. Boaters can transport these tiny snails from one waterbody to another, so it may not hurt to inspect your boat for these troublesome snails on occasion. To this day, no eradication method for mudsnails is successful once they have established themselves in a new aquatic environment.

Have you ever seen a mudsnail? If you own a boat will you start inspecting it for mudsnails?

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