Island Apple Snail Eggs

These little bundles (about 3″ long) are everywhere when we’re out kayaking, and I’ve often wondered what they are. They are the eggs of the island apple snail (Pomacea maculata), a huge freshwater snail which is unfortunately non-native to Florida. (Other common names include the spotted apple snail and channeled apple snail.)

Apple snails are huge, reaching up to 6″ in shell height, and are considered the largest snails on earth. They eat crops and the eggs of native frogs, and outcompete native snails. They have few natural predators, but raccoons and snail kites (Rostrhamus sociabilis) have been known to give them a try.

These egg masses are everywhere, accessible and brightly colored, containing up to 2,000 eggs each. Eggs are usually an attractive food item — why isn’t anything eating these? They apparently contain both a neurotoxin and a substance which impedes digestion of protein (and also, coincidentally, colors the eggs bright pink).

Pomacea maculata is in the pet trade, and may have spread via “aquarium dumps” into local waterways. It can also be carried via floodwaters. Its original range was South America, but it has spread to the southern United States as well as to China, Korea, Japan and Indonesia.

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