Studies on the life cycle of the snail, Viviparus contectoides


  • Harley J. Van Cleave,

  • Ludwig G. Lederer

  • Contributions from the Zoölogical Laboratory of the University of Illinois, no. 428.


More than 3700 individuals of Viviparus contectoides from the Illinois River, near Peoria, Illinois, and from the Erie Canal in central New York, have been the subject of statistical and biological analysis as periodic quantitative samples to secure information on the life cycle. Sexes are easily distinguished through tentacular differences. Shells show marked sex dimorphism of size. Males reach a maximum height of 25 mm.; females may exceed 40 mm. Distribution curves, checked by experimental data on another species of the same genus, give evidence that males live normally about one year, while females may live three years. Differences in sex ratio are attributable to differences in life span and to changes in environmental factors producing aggregations of members of one sex.

In central New York, the parturition period seems to begin to March and terminates in June. In central Illinois it extends from February into May. The uterus of a gravid female contains eggs, embryos, and shelled young in a graded series. At birth, the young shell contains one and one-half whorls and has a height of approximately 3.8 mm. Color bands are present on the shell three months before birth. Initial growth rate is extremely rapid. In less than three months the largest of the new generation are as large as the smallest of the parent generation. Graphs given show seasonal changes in the population.