Mystery solved? DNA barcoding reveals new snail in Adirondacks

O’Leary, E., Jojo, D. and David, A.A., 2021. Another mystery snail in the Adirondacks: DNA barcoding reveals the first record of Sinotaia cf. quadrata (Caenogastropoda: Viviparidae) from North America. American Malacological Bulletin38(2), pp.1-5.

Summary written by Justin Dalaba

How do we make use of new and existing technologies for early detection of aquatic invasive species? O’Leary et al. provide an example of DNA barcoding to aid in identification of non-indigenous mollusks from New York’s waterways.


There’s an ever-present threat of new species introductions, particularly with New York’s extensive waterways. In 2021, O’Leary et al. used DNA barcoding to discover the first record of the mystery snail, Sinotaia cf. quadrata, in North America. During a routine monitoring survey in the Adirondacks region, they recovered three adults from a boat launch site, which likely arrived through the aquarium trade in the St. Lawrence Seaway. Upon identification in the lab, 44 of 47 specimens collected during sampling were established, non-indigenous species, including Chinese mystery snail (Cipangopaludina chinensis) and banded mystery snail (Viviparus georgianus), however, three of the specimens had a significantly shorter spire, prompting molecular identification. Through DNA barcoding, they extracted genomic DNA from tissue samples, then purified and analyzed. Preliminary molecular identification involved GenBank’s BLASTn tool and the Barcode of Life Database. They then compared sequences to representative barcodes for all known viviparid snails from New York State and the sequence dataset from Arias et al. In confirming this novel species, the authors identify the need for intensified biomonitoring and future genetic examination through a more comprehensive genetic dataset. The research team has planned targeted searches to determine the extent of its spread into the Adirondacks region.

Key take-aways:

  • This study provides the first report of the mystery snail (Sinotaia cf. quadrata) from North America, and the fourth non-indigenous viviparid in New York waters
  • Three adult specimens of Sinotaia cf. quadrata were recovered from Brandy Brook Boat Launch and sequenced to confirm species identification using a DNA barcoding approach
  • Based on geography and number of individuals found, their occurrence likely represents a very recent introduction, possibly through the aquarium trade

Management implications:

  • Intensified biomonitoring is necessary for early detection and careful attention should be given when identifying invasive aquatic species and their potential introduction pathways
  • Molecular analysis (e.g. DNA barcoding) can aid in identification of non-indigenous aquatic species, particularly those that can be similar in appearance, such as mollusks
  • Other waterbodies in the Adirondacks region should be surveyed to determine the current distribution of the mystery snail, Sinotaia cf. quadrata

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