Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences

Freshwater snails in competition: alien Physa acuta (Physidae) and native Glyptophysa gibbosa (Planorbidae) in the River Murray, South Australia

Sylvia Zukowski A B D and Keith F. Walker A C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia.

B Present address: Murray–Darling Freshwater Research Centre, PO Box 991, Wodonga, Vic. 3689, Australia.

C Present address: PO Box 331, Yankalilla, SA 5203, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email:

Marine and Freshwater Research 60(10) 999-1005
Submitted: 18 June 2008  Accepted: 8 February 2009   Published: 20 October 2009


Physa acuta (Draparnaud), an invasive species from Europe, is the most abundant freshwater snail in the Lower River Murray. Its ascendancy follows a general decline of native species, including the morphologically and ecologically similar Glyptophysa gibbosa (Gould). We began with two hypotheses. The first required comparisons of the salinity and temperature tolerances and other attributes of eggs, juveniles and adults to reveal differences that might account for the relative abundances of the species. As anticipated, P. acuta proved to have higher fecundity, shorter hatching time and higher salinity and temperature tolerances than G. gibbosa. The second hypothesis concerned a possible competitive interaction between the species. This was confirmed, as when juveniles were kept together, under laboratory conditions, the growth rate of P. acuta increased and that of G. gibbosa decreased (with some mortality). We suggest that the apparent decline of G. gibbosa in the Lower Murray may reflect its sensitivity to salinity and its vulnerability in interactions with P. acuta. This is a global concern as P. acuta has spread also to North America, Japan and South Africa, and there have been reports of impacts on local species.

Additional keywords: competition, fecundity, introduced species, Murray–Darling Basin, salinity, temperature.


We are grateful to Bruce Weir, Peter Gross, Jonas Weir and the late Peter Schramm for field assistance and discussion. Thanks also to Dr Ben Kefford, RMIT University, Dr Winston Ponder, Australian Museum, Dr Rick Stoffels and Nick Whiterod, Murray–Darling Freshwater Research Centre, and two reviewers and an Associate Editor for helpful comments on a draft manuscript.


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