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Temporal range: 160 Mya[1]-Recent
Spike-topped apple snail
Pomacea bridgesii
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Mollusca
Class: Gastropoda
Subclass: Caenogastropoda
Order: Architaenioglossa
Superfamily: Ampullarioidea
Family: Ampullariidae
J. E. Gray, 1824[2]
105–170 freshwater species; 9 genera; more than 150 nominal species


Ampullariidae, whose members are commonly known as apple snails, is a family of large freshwater snails that includes the mystery snail species. They are aquatic gastropod mollusks with a gill and an operculum. These snails simultaneously have a gill and a lung as functional respiratory structures, which are separated by a division of the mantle cavity. This adaptation allows these animals to be amphibious. Species in this family are considered gonochoristic, meaning that each individual organism is either male or female.

Systematics and taxonomy[edit]

Ampullariidae belongs to the superfamily Ampullarioidea, and is also its type family.[4] It comprised two subfamilies according to the taxonomy of the Gastropoda by Bouchet & Rocroi, 2005,[4] which followed the classification proposed by Berthold (1991),[5] including Ampullariinae Gray, 1824, and Afropominae Berthold, 1991. The current classification accepted by WoRMS includes Ampullariinae and Pomaceinae Starobogatov, 1983.[6]


Ampullariidae are probably of Gondwanan origin,[1] and the diversification of Ampullariidae started probably after the separation of the African and South American continental plates.[1] The sister group of Ampullariidae has not been clearly identified yet.[1] A cladogram showing phylogenic relations of 6 genera belonging to Ampullariidae was proposed by Jørgensen and colleagues in 2008.[7]


There are nine extant[1] genera in the family Ampullariidae:

Subfamily Ampullariinae Gray, 1824


  • Afropomus Pilsbry & Bequaert, 1927[1] – type genus of the subfamily Afropominae,[4] with the only species Afropomus balanoidea (Gould, 1850).[8] It is treated by WoRMS as belonging to the subfamily Ampullariinae.
Subfamily Pomaceinae Starobogatov, 1983
Unassigned to a subfamily
  • Effusa Jousseaume, 1889: synonym of Pomacea Perry, 1810 (junior synonym)
  • PomellaGray, 1847: synonym of Pomacea Perry, 1810
  • Ampullaria Lamarck, 1799: synonym of Pila Röding, 1798
  • Ampullarius Montfort, 1810: synonym of Pila Röding, 1798 (invalid: unjustified emendation of Ampullaria)
  • Ampulloidea d'Orbigny, 1841: synonym of Asolene d'Orbigny, 1838 (unnecessary substitute name for Asolene)
  • Ampullopsis Repelin, 1902 : synonym of Pila Röding, 1798 (junior subjective synonym)
  • Ceratodes Guilding, 1828: synonym of Marisa (gastropod) Gray, 1824 (junior objective synonym of Marisa)
  • Subfamily Lanistinae Starobogatov, 1983: synonym of Ampullariidae Gray, 1824
  • Leroya Grandidier, 1887: synonym of Lanistes Montfort, 1810
  • Limnopomus Dall, 1904: synonym of Pomacea Perry, 1810
  • Meladomus Swainson, 1840: synonym of Lanistes Montfort, 1810
  • Pachychilus Philippi, 1851: synonym of Pila Röding, 1798 (unjustified emendation of Pachylabra)
  • Pachylabra Swainson, 1840: synonym of Pila Röding, 1798 (unnecessary nom. nov. pro Pachystoma Guilding, 1828)
  • Pachystoma Guilding, 1828: synonym of Pila Röding, 1798
  • Pomus Gray, 1847: synonym of Pila Röding, 1798
  • Tribe Sauleini Berthold, 1991: synonym of Ampullariidae Gray, 1824
  • Turbinicola Annandale & Prashad, 1921: synonym of Pila Röding, 1798


The genera Asolene, Felipponea, Marisa, and Pomacea are New World genera that are native to South America, Central America, the West Indies and the Southern United States.[1] The genera Afropomus, Lanistes, and Saulea are found in Africa.[1] The genus Pila is native to both Africa and Asia.[1]


Apple snails are exceptionally well adapted to tropical regions characterized by periods of drought alternating with periods of high rainfall. This adaptation is reflected in their life style; they are moderately amphibious.[12] They have an operculum which enables the snail to seal the shell entrance to prevent drying out while they are buried in the mud during dry periods.

One of the more typical adaptations of apple snails is branchial respiration. The snail has a system comparable to the gills of a fish (at the right side of the snail body) to breathe under water as well as a lung (at the left side of the body) to respire air. This lung/gill combination expands the action radius of the snail in search for food. It is part of the snail's natural behaviour to leave the water when the food supply below the surface becomes inadequate.

Pomacea canaliculata egg clusters

Several apple snail genera (Pomacea, Pila and Asolene/Pomella) deposit eggs above the waterline in calcareous clutches and can be recognized by the light pink color they resemble.[13] This remarkable strategy of aquatic snails protects the eggs against predation by fish and other aquatic inhabitants. Another anti-predator adaptation in the apple snail genera Pomacea and Pila, is the tubular siphon, used to breathe air while submerged, reducing vulnerability to attacking birds. The apple snail's usual enemies are the birds limpkin and snail kite.

Apple snails inhabit various ecosystems: ponds, swamps and rivers. Although they occasionally leave the water, they spend most of their time under water. Unlike the pulmonate snail families, apple snails are not hermaphroditic, but gonochoristic; i.e. they have separate sexes.

Human use[edit]

As a common aquarium animal[edit]

Pomacea canaliculata with extended siphon.

Apple snails are popular aquarium pets because of their attractive appearance and size.[citation needed] When properly cared for,[clarification needed] some apple snail species can reach 15 cm (5.9 in) diameter.[citation needed] Apple snails include species that are the biggest living freshwater snails on Earth.

The most common apple snail in aquarium shops[citation needed] are Pomacea bridgesii and Pomacea diffusa, (both called mystery snails or spike-topped apple snails, among other things). These species come in different colours from brown to albino or yellow and even blue, purple, pink, and jade, with or without banding. Another common apple snail is Pomacea canaliculata; this snail is bigger, rounder and is more likely to eat aquatic plants, which makes it less suitable for most aquaria.[citation needed] This species can also have different shell and body colours. The "giant ramshorn snail" (Marisa cornuarietis) although not always recognized as an apple snail due to its discoidal shape, is also a popular aquatic pet.[citation needed] Occasionally, the Florida apple snail (Pomacea paludosa) is found in the aquarium trade and these are often collected in the wild from ditches and ponds in Florida.[citation needed] The giant Pomacea maculata is rarely used as an aquarium species.[citation needed]

Apple snails are often sold under the name "golden (ivory, blue, black...) mystery snail" and they are given incorrect names like Ampullarius for the genus instead of Pomacea and wrong species names like gigas instead of maculata.[citation needed]


The optimal aquarium water temperature for apple snails is between 18 and 28 °C (64 and 82 °F).[citation needed] Apple snails are more active and lively in the higher part of this temperature range. In these higher temperatures, the snails tend to eat, crawl and grow faster.[citation needed] At the lower end of the temperature range, 18 °C or 64 °F, the snails may become inactive.[citation needed]

As a pest[edit]

In the 1980s, Pomacea canaliculata was introduced in Taiwan to start an escargot industry.[14] It was thought that such food culture could provide valuable proteins for farmers, who primarily live on a rice diet. However, the snails did not become a culinary success. Additionally the imported snails (like the native apple snail population, Pila) were able to transfer a parasite called Angiostrongylus cantonensis (rat lungworm). This parasite can infect humans if snails are eaten that have not been thoroughly cooked first.

Instead of becoming a valuable food source, the introduced snails escaped and became a serious threat to rice production and the native ecosystems. During the 1980s the introduced snails rapidly spread to Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia,[15] Hong Kong, southern China, Japan and the Philippines.

Hawaii experienced the same introduction of Pomacea for culinary purposes, and its taro industry is now suffering because of it.

Genera Marisa, Pila and Pomacea (except Pomacea diffusa and native Pomacea paludosa) are already established in the US, and are considered to represent a potentially serious threat as a pest which could negatively affect agriculture, human health or commerce. Therefore, it has been suggested that these genera be given top national quarantine significance in the US.[16]

Nevertheless, apple snails are considered a delicacy in several regions of the world, and they are often sold in East and Pacific Asian markets for consumption.

As a bio-control agent[edit]

Pomacea and Marisa species have been introduced to Africa and Asia in an attempt to control other medically problematic snails in the family Planorbidae: Bulinus species and Biomphalaria species, which serve as intermediate hosts for trematoda parasites.[17] These parasites can cause swimmers itch and schistosomiasis, a disease that affects over 200 million people in tropical regions. One of the species introduced as bio-agent is Marisa cornuarietis; this snail competes with other snails and also directly preys on other species.[citation needed]

As food[edit]

In Veracruz, Mexico, there is a subspecies of apple snail known as Pomacea patula catemacensis Baker, 1922. This subspecies is endemic to Lake Catemaco.[18] This large snail is locally known as "tegogolo" and is prized as a nutritious food item, with approximately 12 grams of protein per 100 grams of apple snail flesh according to the apple snail nutritional information. They are also low in fat and high in minerals and are considered an aphrodisiac. Only wild or specifically cultured apple snails are fit for human consumption; those found in domestic aquaria may be unsuitable.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Hayes K. A., Cowie R. H. & Thiengo S. C. (2009). "A global phylogeny of apple snails: Gondwanan origin, generic relationships, and the influence of outgroup choice (Caenogastropoda: Ampullariidae)". Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 98(1): 61–76. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8312.2009.01246.x.
  2. ^ Gray J. E. (1824). "Zoological notices". The Philosophical Magazine and Journal 63: 274–277. page 276.
  3. ^ Strong E. E., Gargominy O., Ponder W. F. & Bouchet P. (2008). "Global Diversity of Gastropods (Gastropoda; Mollusca) in Freshwater". Hydrobiologia 595: 149–166. hdl:10088/7390 doi:10.1007/s10750-007-9012-6.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Bouchet, Philippe; Rocroi, Jean-Pierre; Frýda, Jiri; Hausdorf, Bernard; Ponder, Winston; Valdés, Ángel & Warén, Anders (2005). "Classification and nomenclator of gastropod families". Malacologia. 47 (1–2). Hackenheim, Germany: ConchBooks: 1–397. ISBN 3-925919-72-4. ISSN 0076-2997.
  5. ^ Berthold T. (1991). Vergleichende Anatomie, Phylogenie und historische Biogeographie der Ampullariidae (Mollusca, Gastropoda) (in German). Vol. new series 29. Hamburg: P. Parey. pp. 256 pp. ISBN 978-3-490-15196-4. {{cite book}}: |journal= ignored (help)
  6. ^ "Ampullariidae Gray, 1824". WoRMS. Retrieved 19 May 2022.
  7. ^ Jørgensen A., Kristensen T. K. & Madsen H. (2008). "A molecular phylogeny of apple snails (Gastropoda, Caenogastropoda, Ampullariidae) with an emphasis on African species". Zoologica Scripta 37(3): 245–252. doi:10.1111/j.1463-6409.2007.00322.x.
  8. ^ Brown D. S. (1994). Freshwater Snails of Africa and their Medical Importance. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 0-7484-0026-5.
  9. ^ Harzhauser, M.; Neubauer, T. A.; Kadolsky, D.; Pickford, M.; Nordsieck, H. (2016). "Terrestrial and lacustrine gastropods from the Priabonian (upper Eocene) of the Sultanate of Oman". Paläontologische Zeitschrift 90(1): 63–99. doi:10.1007/s12542-015-0277-1
  10. ^ Neubauer, Thomas A. (2017). Doriaca Willmann, 1981 †. In: MolluscaBase (2017). Accessed through: World Register of Marine Species at http://www.marinespecies.org/aphia.php?p=taxdetails&id=820477 on 23 November 2017
  11. ^ a b Harzhauser, M., Neubauer, T. A., Bussert, R., & Eisawi, A. A. (2017). "Ampullariid gastropods from the Palaeogene Hudi Chert Formation (Republic of the Sudan)". Journal of African Earth Sciences 129: 338–345. doi:10.1016/j.jafrearsci.2017.01.024
  12. ^ Yusa, Yoichi (2007–12). "Causes of variation in sex ratio and modes of sex determination in the Mollusca—an overview*". American Malacological Bulletin. 23 (1): 89–98. doi:10.4003/0740-2783-23.1.89. ISSN 0740-2783. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  13. ^ Albrecht, E. A., N. B. Carreno, and A. Castro-Vazquez. "A quantitative study of copulation and spawning in the South American apple-snail." Veliger 39.2 (1996): 142–147.
  14. ^ Halwart M. (1994). "The golden apple snail Pomacea canaliculata in Asian rice farming systems: present impact and future threat". International Journal of Pest Management. 40 (2): 199–206. doi:10.1080/09670879409371882. ISSN 0967-0874.
  15. ^ Jahn G. C.; Pheng S.; Khiev B.; Pol C. (1998). "Pest potential of the golden apple snail in Cambodia". Cambodian Journal of Agriculture. 1: 34–35.
  16. ^ Cowie R. H., Dillon R. T., Robinson D. G. & Smith J. W. (2009). "Alien non-marine snails and slugs of priority quarantine importance in the United States: A preliminary risk assessment". American Malacological Bulletin 27: 113–132. PDF Archived 16 June 2016 at the Wayback Machine.
  17. ^ "Centers for Disease Control Schistosomiasis". 17 June 2024. Retrieved 8 July 2024.
  18. ^ Ruiz-Ramírez, Rafael; Espinosa-Chávez, Félix; Martínez-Jerónimo, Fernando (2007). "Growth and Reproduction of Pomacea patula catemacensis Baker, 1922 (Gastropoda: Ampullariidae) When Fed Calothrix sp. (Cyanobacteria)". Journal of the World Aquaculture Society. 36 (1): 87–95. doi:10.1111/j.1749-7345.2005.tb00134.x.[permanent dead link]

Further reading[edit]

  • Baldia JP, Pantastico JB (1991). "Environmental impact of the golden snail (Pomacea sp.) on rice farming systems in the Philippines". Wallaceana. 65: 14–6.
  • Bieler R (1993). "Book Review (Vergleichende anatomie ... Berthold, T, 1991) and Cladistic Re-analysis". The Veliger. 36 (3): 291–7.
  • Cazzaniga NJ (April 2002). "Old species and new concepts in the taxonomy of Pomacea (Gastropoda: Ampullariidae)". Biocell. 26 (1): 71–81. PMID 12058383.
  • Cowie RH (2001). "Can snails ever be effective and safe biocontrol agents?". International Journal of Pest Management. 47 (1): 23–40. CiteSeerX doi:10.1080/09670870150215577. S2CID 51510769.
  • McClary A (1962). "Surface inspiration and ciliary feeding in Pomacea paludosa (Prosobranchia: Mesogastropoda: Ampullariidae)". Malacologia. 2 (1): 87–104.
  • Meenakshi VR (1956). "Physiology of hibernation of the apple-snail Pila virens (Lamarck)". Current Science. 10: 321–3.

External links[edit]