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Valvata tricarinata

What do they look like?

Three-ridge valvata snails are 4.5 to 5.5 mm in diameter. Their shells have 4.5 to 5 spirals in it, and spiral to the right. The shell usually has three spiral ridges, which gives this species their name. This species has an operculum, which is a plate attached to the body the covers the opening of the shell when the snail draws its body inside. This seals off the snail from the outside environment. The operculum has many spirals which increase very slowly in width and is thin and flat. The soft part of the snail is usually blackish, except for the last third of the body. The foot, which is the part that the snail extends from the shell, has white sides and is short, wide, and rounded behind. The tentacles are long, slender, pointed and black. (Burch and Jung, 1992; Burch, 1989)

  • Range length
    4.5 to 5.5 mm
    0.18 to 0.22 in

Where do they live?

The three-ridge valvata, Valvata tricarinata, is a freshwater snail found in North American, mainly from the northern United States from Virginia, west to Arkansas and north through Canada. Other populations have been found in the Columbia River drainage in the western United States. ("Valvata tricarinata", 2003; Foltz, 2013)

What kind of habitat do they need?

Three-ridge valvata snails are found in large and small lakes, and large and small rivers. In a northern Michigan population, the most snails were found at approximately 10 and 12.5 feet. This snail has also been found in temporary beach pools on the Great Lakes. The adult snails are usually by aquatic vegetation, and egg cases can be found attached to aquatic plants or floating objects. (Burch and Jung, 1992; Foltz, 2013; Furrow, 1935; Pace, et al., 1979)

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • lakes and ponds
  • rivers and streams
  • temporary pools

How do they grow?

Eggs of this snail species measure 0.25 mm by 0.37 m. Four to eighteen eggs are deposited in a green gelationous capsule, and take 12 to 15 days to hatch in July and August. During the summer, time from fertilization to adulthood may take up to four months. (Furrow, 1935)

How do they reproduce?

Three-ridge valvata snails are hermaphrodites, meaning that each individual snail has both male and female reproductive parts. These snails mate during the warmer months of the year. Each snail inserts sperm into the other snail, so that each snail will then lay eggs. (Burch and Jung, 1992; Burch, 1989)

Since each three-ridge valvata has both male and female reproductive parts, this species produces sperm first, and then eggs. Each individual is capable of producing eggs. Four to eighteen eggs are deposited in a greenish capsule on plants or floating objects. (Burch and Jung, 1992; Burch, 1989; Furrow, 1935)

  • Breeding season
    Valvata tricarinata mates during the warmer months of the year.
  • Range number of offspring
    4 to 18
  • Average number of offspring

Parents produce an egg capsule for the eggs to safely grow and develop in. After the eggs are laid, the snails leave and do not provide any more parental care. (Burch, 1989; Furrow, 1935)

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning

How long do they live?

These snails may live up to two years. (Foltz, 2013)

  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    2 (high) years

How do they behave?

Many three-ridge valvata snails can often be found close together. They have been found with as many as 50 snails per square meter. These snails are usually found by aquatic vegetation. (Burch and Jung, 1992; Pace, et al., 1979)

How do they communicate with each other?

These snails have a centralized nervous system. They also have eye spots at the base of their tentacles, which detect light. They can also detect chemicals to find food. (Burch and Jung, 1992; Burch, 1989)

What do they eat?

Three-ridge valvata snails feed on algae. They use a toothed organ called the radula to scrape the algae off surfaces. (Burch and Jung, 1992; Burch, 1989)

  • Plant Foods
  • algae

What eats them and how do they avoid being eaten?

These snails are preyed upon by fish, water birds, and crayfish. (Burch and Jung, 1992; Burch, 1989)

What roles do they have in the ecosystem?

In general, three-ridge valvata snails feed on algae and are eaten by fish, water birds, and crayfish. These kinds of snails are often infected by parasitic worms called trematodes. (Burch and Jung, 1992; Burch, 1989)

Do they cause problems?

These snails do not cause any problems for humans.

How do they interact with us?

Three-ridge valvata snails have no positive effects on humans.

Are they endangered?

Three-ridge valvata snails are not an endangered species.


Renee Mulcrone (author), Special Projects, Angela Miner (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.


2003. "Valvata tricarinata" (On-line). Encyclopedia of Life. Accessed May 16, 2013 at

Burch, J. 1989. Freshwater snails of North America. Hamburg, Michigan: Malacological Publications.

Burch, J., Y. Jung. 1992. Freshwater Snails of the University of Michigan Biological Station Area. Walkerana, 6/15: 1-218.

Cordeiro, J., K. Jurist. 2013. "Valvata tricarnata" (On-line). Nature Serve Explorer. Accessed September 25, 2013 at

Dillon, R., B. Watson, T. Stewart, W. Reeves. 2006. "Valvata tricarnata (Say 1817)" (On-line). The freshwater gastropods of North America. Accessed June 26, 2013 at

Foltz, S. 2013. "Conservation Planning Documents, Species Fact Sheets, Snails and Slugs (Gastropoda): Valvata tricarinata, Three ridge valvata" (On-line). U.S. Forest Service, Interagency Special Status /Sensitive Species Program (ISSSSP). Accessed June 28, 2013 at

Furrow, C. 1935. Development of the hermaphrodite genital organs of Valvata tricarinata. Cell and Tissue Research, 22/3: 282-304.

Geraerts, W., J. Joosse. 1984. Freshwater snails (Basommatophora). Pp. 141-207 in A Tompa, N Verdonk, J van den Biggelaar, eds. The Mollusca, Vol. 7, reproduction. London: Academic Press, Inc.

Pace, G., E. Szuch, R. Dapson. 1979. Depth distribution of three gastropods in New Mission Bay, Lake Michigan. Nautilus, 93: 1-36. Accessed October 24, 2013 at

University of Michigan Museum of ZoologyNational Science Foundation

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Mulcrone, R. 2014. "Valvata tricarinata" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed February 27, 2024 at

BioKIDS is sponsored in part by the Interagency Education Research Initiative. It is a partnership of the University of Michigan School of Education, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, and the Detroit Public Schools. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DRL-0628151.
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