For Immediate Release
December 16, 2014
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Brockport Scientists Identify Presence of Snails Along Lake Ontario that Endanger Ducks
Environmental Protection Agency-funded project greatly expands known locations of invasive faucet snails
BROCKPORT, NY—Scientists at The College at Brockport, State University of New York, have teamed with scientists at several universities and agencies in the United States and Canada to greatly add to the list of known locations of faucet snails (Bithynia tentaculata) in the Great Lakes. The new locations show that the snails have invaded many more areas along the Great Lakes coastline than anyone realized.
The spread of these small European snails is bad news for waterfowl; they are known to carry intestinal flukes that kill ducks and coots.
“The abundance and distribution of Bithynia tentaculata suggests that they are well established in Lake Ontario wetlands, occurring at 20 sites sampled from 2011 to 2013,” explained Dr. Ely Kosnicki, an aquatic invertebrate ecologist at the College at Brockport, who along with Brockport adjunct research scientist Gary Neuderfer identified faucet snails in Lake Ontario samples.
Research teams from 10 universities and Environment Canada have been sampling coastal wetlands all along the Great Lakes coast since 2011 and have found snails at up to a dozen sites per year. This compares to the current known locations shown on the USGS website. The project is funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes National Program Office.
“The five-year project will sample most wetlands in the Great Lakes larger than ten acres, thus reaching many sites that previous studies never sampled,” explained Dr. Douglas Wilcox, the lead for the Brockport effort on the study.
The small snail, 12 – 15 mm in height at full size, is brown to black in color with a distinctive whorl of concentric circles on the shell opening cover that looks like tree rings. The tiny size of young snails means they are easily transported and spread, and they are difficult to kill.
According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the faucet snail carries three intestinal trematodes that cause mortality in ducks and coots. When waterfowl consume the infected snails, the adult trematodes attack the internal organs, causing lesions and hemorrhage. Infected birds appear lethargic and have difficulty diving and flying before eventually dying.
Although the primary purpose of the project is to assess how Great Lakes coastal wetlands are faring, detecting invasives and their spread is one of the secondary benefits. The scientific team expects to report soon on the spread of non-native fish, and has helped to locate and combat invasive aquatic plants.
“The number of invasive species in the Great Lakes keeps increasing, and they continue to spread geographically as humans assist in transport to new areas,” Wilcox added. “This project will help identify new populations in early stages of invasion, thus making control efforts more feasible, as well as alerting people of the need to avoid spreading invasives.”
For more information on how to clean gear and boats to prevent invasive species spread, go to www.protectyourwaters.net.
The College at Brockport, State University of New York
350 New Campus Drive * Brockport, New York 14420-2931
(585) 395-2754 * FAX (585) 395-2723 * www.brockport.edu