Grand Lake Mystery Snails (watercolour 4 x 5 in.) Sold

12 August 2014 found me touching up one of my oil paintings in the Bio-blitz headquarters in the Courthouse Museum in Gagetown, New Brunswick, when Don McAlpine showed me the Chinese Mystery Snails that were collected in Grand Lake off French Island.

I decided to paint them in watercolour. The the snail on the left has its aperture closed neatly by a horny "operculum" attached to the back of its tail, and the one on the right shows the eroded spire that
happens as the snails get older.

The Chinese Mystery Snails (Cipangopaludina, or Bellamya, chinensis) are remarkable because of their huge size (to 60 mm high), and uniform dark greenish coloration.  Introduced to the Pacific Coast for food by oriental immigrants in the 19 th Century, and to many places throughout eastern North America throughout the 20th century as an aquarium snail, these are now common in the Lake Erie and Lake Ontario drainages, around Montreal and fairly widespread in southwestern Ontario.

We First found this species on 8 July 1994 in a duckweed-covered ditch in the Royal Botanical Gardens, Highway 403/Old Guelph Road - at the time the first record for the Lake Ontario drainage - then in Northumberland County at Garden Hill Conservation Area, in a weedy/Chara Typha-lined greenwater millpond.  On 6 September 1996 we confirmed the Rideau River introduction in Brewer Park on the weedy shore, deep bay weedy lock-bypass river.

Then in Hastings County: Moira Lake at Hwy 62 bridge the species was abundant  on sand & vegetation at bathing beach & marshy corners, 4 of the specimens came to the NBM.

And they just kept coming September 1998, Petawawa Pt, mouth of Petawawa River, July 2001 mouth of Carp River at Ottawa River, September 2001, Ottawa River in Pembroke and just above the Hurdman dam on the Mattawa River, October 2005 Mud Lake in Ottawa and in Hastings County in a creek at Corbyville.

In April 2008 we revisited the Moira Lake & River population, and in May found them in Peterborough County in Keene, where Murray Black, the proprietor of Indian Lake Lodge, said that this species has been in the river for the 23 years he'd owned the place. In September Fred & Matt keevil found them in Golden Lake in Renfrew County,

In June 2011, they turned up on the shore Blind River in Blind River, along Lake Huron, and then in August of that year South Nation Conservation personnel began their surveys and Snail Snagaroos to locate and try to control the invasion in the Henderson Creek, in Winchester.

In September 2011 Fred and Rory Tanner found them in the Mattawa R at Hwy 17/Pimisi Bay Rest Area, and in Sept 2012 we confirmed the persistence of the Pembroke and Mattawa R Hurdman dam populations, and found them in Black Bay, 6.4 km WSW Petawawa, where the body whorls of many of the shells were "peeled" open, as if Muskrats had finally learned how to prey on the invaders.

Dear patrons and supporters,

This painting is now in the collection of the New Brunswick Museum.



  1. ...and these snails are the second population known from New Brunswick. They were first found by members of the COSEWIC Mollusc subcommittee at Sandy Point, and then Don McAlpine and Howie Huynh and I found them on nearby French Island. Don and his son Fennig found a few living snails by diving, but they're certainly not abundant anywhere. Despite the abundance of mussels, Grand Lake seems to have very few aquatic snails, perhaps because of very low calcium in the water, so it's going to be interesting to see how these snails, so much bigger than any native snails that they're the same size as the mussels, thrive, persist or fail here.

  2. and then there was - McAlpine, Donald F., Dwayne A. W. Lepitzki, Frederick W. Schueler, Fenning J.T. McAlpine, Andrew Hebda, Robert G. Forsyth, Annegret Nicolai, John E. Maunder, & Ron G. Noseworthy. 2016.. Occurrence of the Chinese Mystery Snail, Cipangopaludina chinensis (Gray, 1834) (Mollusca: Viviparidae) in the Saint John River system, New Brunswick, with a review of status in Atlantic Canada. BioInvasions Records 5(3):149-154


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