Shallow lakes, wetlands and streams provide billions of dollars in ecosystem services and require innovation and creativity to preserve (Horgan et al. 2014). Many well-known invasive species, such as Burmese pythons, cattails, nutria, bullfrogs and apple snails, all invade freshwater wetlands. Combating invasive species costs the United States upwards of $120 billion annually (Pimentel et al. 2005) and invasive species represent one of the greatest threats to freshwater biodiversity (Strayer 2010). Mollusks often make up many of the problematic invasives.
Two undergraduate students, Bianca Perez and Averi Segrest, and our collaborator Russ Minton found two Cipangopaludina snails were discovered in Harris County, TX, during routine fieldwork in October 2015. Dissection yielded one male and one female containing 52 offspring in her brood pouch. Phylogenetic analysis of the cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) gene confirmed both individuals to be Cipangopaludina japonica (von Martens, 1861). This work represented the first distribution record of C. japonica in Texas. Non-native invasive snails, such as C. japonica, compete with native species and may serve as reservoirs for parasites, prompting the need for increased diligence in monitoring public waterways. Now senior Shannon Walsh will investigate the genetic make-up of populations of Asian mystery snails across the country.