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Biomphalaria glabrata (Say, 1818)

Diagnostic features

Shells medium sized, planispiral, biconcave, whorls evenly convex, rounded, angular or carinate, in some species the last whorl descends, sinistrally coiled. Almost flat to sunken spire; with relatively narrow to very wide shallow umbilicus, indented sutures. Aperture large, ovate to broadly lunate. Without columella twist. Animals have long slender tentacles and reddish blood that contains haemoglobin. Copulatory organ: the penis has a long narrow sheath and a long narrow praeputium. Variable number of lobes on the prostate and presence of vaginal pouch, large number of diverticulae on the ovotestis. May or may not have an elongated renal ridge. Mesocone of the lateral teeth of the radula may be angular or non angular


Biomphalaria glabrata (Say, 1818)

Class Gastropoda

Subclass Heterobranchia

Order Hygrophila

Superfamily Planorboidea

Family Planorbidae

Subfamily: Planorbinae

Genus Biomphalaria Preston, 1910 (Type species: Biomphalaria smithi Preston, 1910, Lake Albert Edward, Uganda).

Original name: Planorbis glabratus Say, 1818. Say, T. 1818. Account of two new genera, and several new species, of fresh water and land shells. Journal of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 1: 276-284.

Type locality: Incorrectly given as North Carolina but is probably from the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, Lesser Antilles.

Synonyms: Planorbis guadaloupensis Sowerby, 1822; Planorbis ferrugineus Spix, 1827, Planorbis olivaceus Spix, 1827, Planorbis nigricans Spix, 1827, Planorbis albescens Spix, 1827, Planorbis viridis Spix, 1827, Planorbis lugubris J. A. Wagner, 1827; Planorbis (Planorbina) preglabratus Marshall, 1926, Australorbis gladratus christopherensis Pilsbry, 1934.

Biology and ecology

Biomphalaria glabrata inhabits small streams, ponds and marshes. It feeds on bacterial films, algae, diatoms and decaying plants.

Biomphalaria glabrata is capable of aestivating for a few months.

The freshwater snail Marisa cornuarietis is a predator of Biomphalaria glabrata: it feeds on its eggs, juvenile and adult snails.


West Indies and northern South America. (The genus is distributed in the Americas, Africa, Madagascar and the Middle East. Introduced into Hong Kong and Romania).


This species does not occur in Australia, but is mentioned here as it  could be accidentally introduced. Biomphalaria is the most important and widely distributed intermediate host of Schistosoma mansoni, a blood fluke responsible for human intestinal schistosomiasis in Africa and the Americas.

Further reading

DeJong, R. J., Morgan, J. A., Paraense, W. L., Pointier, J.-P., Amarista, M., Ayeh-Kumi, P. F., Babiker, A., Barbosa, C. S., Brémond, P., Canese, A. P., De Souza, C. P., Dominguez, C., File, S., Gutierrez, A., Incani, R. N., Kawano, T., Kazibwe, F., Kpikpi, J., Lwambo, N. J., Mimpfoundi, R., Njiokou, F., Noël Poda, J., Sene, M., Velásquez, L. E., Yong, M., Adema, C. M., Hofkin, B. V., Mkoji, G. M. & Loker, E. S. (2001). Evolutionary relationships and biogeography of Biomphalaria (Gastropoda: Planorbidae) with implications regarding its role as host of the human bloodfluke, Schistosoma mansoni. Molecular Biology and Evolution 18: 2225-2239.

DeJong, R. J., Emery, A. M. & Adema, C. M. (2004). The mitochondrial genome of Biomphalaria glabrata (Gastropoda: Basommatophora), intermediate host of Schistosoma mansoni. Journal of Parasitology 90: 991-997. 

Ibikounlé, M., Massougbodji, A., Sakiti, N. G., Pointier, J.-P. & Moné, H. (2008). Anatomical characters for easy identification between Biomphalaria pfeifferi, Helisoma duryi and Indoplanorbis exustus during field surveys. Journal of Cell and Animal Biology 2: 112-117.

Majoros, G., Fehér, Z., Deli, T. & Földvári, G. (2008). Establishment of Biomphalaria tenagophila snails in Europe. Emerging Infectious Diseases 14: 1812-1814.

Malek, E. A. (1985). Snail hosts of Schistosomiasis and other snail-transmitted diseases in tropical America: a manual. Washington, D.C., Pan American Health Organization.

Mandahl-Barth, G. (1957). Intermediate hosts of Schistosoma: African Biomphalaria and Bulinus: II. Bulletin of the World Health Organization 17: 1-65.

Morgan, J. A. T., Dejong, R. J. & Snyder, S. D. (2001). Schistosoma mansoni and Biomphalaria: past history and future trends. Parasitology 123: S211-S228.

Ng, T.H., Tan, S.K., Wong, W.H., Meier, R., Chan, S-Y., Tan, H.H. and Yeo, D.C.J. 2016. Molluscs for Sale: Assessment of Freshwater Gastropods and Bivalves in the Ornamental Pet Trade. PLOS One. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0161130.

Pimentel, D. (1957). Life history of Australorbis glabratus, the intermediate snail host of Schistosoma mansoni in Puerto Rico. Ecology 38: 576-580.

Pointier, J. P., David, P. & Jarne, P. (2005). Biological invasions: the case of planorbid snails. Journal of Helminthology 79: 249-256.

Reeves, W. K., Dillon Jr, R. T. & Dasch, G. A. (2008). Freshwater snails (Mollusca: Gastropoda) from the Commonwealth of Dominica with a discussion of their roles in the transmission of parasites. American Malacological Bulletin 24: 59-63.

Yousif, F., Ibrahim, A., Abdel, K. A. & El-Bardicy, S. (1998). Invasion of the Nile Valley in Egypt by a hybrid of Biomphalaria glabrata and Biomphalaria alexandrina, snail vectors of Schistosoma mansoni. Journal of the Egyptian Society of Parasitology 28: 569-582.