Effects of macrophytes on feeding and life-history traits of the invasive apple snail Pomacea canaliculata

Jianwen QIU*, King Lun Kwong

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

72 Citations (Scopus)


1. Biological invasions have become a serious threat to ecosystems worldwide. Various factors can contribute to the success of biological invasion. We examined how different macrophyte food affected feeding and life-history traits of the invasive herbivorous snail Pomacea canaliculata, and whether differences in snail life-history traits could explain its successful infestation of agricultural and non-agricultural wetlands in Asia. 2. We tested five cultivated and five wild semi-aquatic macrophytes. Snail daily feeding rate varied substantially with plant species, ranging from 1.3% to 22% of its body mass. Snails fed with four (Amaranthus gangeticus, Apium graveolens dulce, Ipomoea aquatica and Nasturtium officinale) of the five cultivated macrophyte species exhibited high survivorship, fast growth and high fecundity. Snails fed with Colocasia esculenta, however, grew poorly, did not reproduce and eventually died. 3. Of the five wild species (Eichhornia crassipes, Ludwigia adscendens, Murdannia nudiflora, Myriophyllum aquaticum and Polygonum hydropiper), M. nudiflora supported a high snail survival, but snails had slower growth and lower fecundity than those reared on the four palatable cultivated species. Snails fed with L. adscendens grew substantially slower than those fed with M. nudiflora, and produced only a small clutch of eggs. Snails fed with E. crassipes, M. aquaticum and P. hydropiper had very low survivorship, grew very little and did not reproduce. 4. We determined six plant properties and their correlation with the feeding, growth and reproduction of the apple snails. Cultivated macrophytes in general had a higher nutritional value and lower physical and chemical defences. Phenolic content was negatively correlated with snail feeding rate, while plant nitrogen and phosphorus contents were positively correlated with snail egg production and growth, respectively. 5. These results indicate that, due to their higher nutritional value and lower chemical and physical defences, cultivated macrophytes are in general desirable for the apple snail which may partly explain its successful invasion into wet agricultural areas in Asia. This snail may also selectively graze poorly defended wild macrophytes in non-agricultural wetlands, leading to changes in floral diversity and wetland functioning. Management of this and other apple snails with similar life-history traits should thus focus on the prevention of their further spread.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1720-1730
Number of pages11
JournalFreshwater Biology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2009

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Aquatic Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • Apple snail
  • Food
  • Growth
  • Invasive species
  • Reproduction


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