Valvata tricarinata

Geographic Range

The three-ridge valvata, Valvata tricarinata, is a freshwater snail found in North American drainages, mainly from the northern United States from Virginia, west to Arkansas and north through Canada. Disjunct populations have been found in the Columbia River drainage in the western United States. Western populations have not been evaluated to see if they are the same species or introduced. ("Valvata tricarinata", 2003; Foltz, 2013)


Valvata tricarinata is found in almost all perennial water habitats, including large and small lakes, and large and small rivers. In a northern Michigan population, peak densities were found at approximately 10 and 12.5 feet. This snail has also been found in transient beach pools on the Great Lakes. Found in a variety of sediments, V. tricarinata is usually by aquatic vegetation. Egg cases have been found attached to Potamogeton, Chara, and Sagittaria species or to floating objects. (Burch and Jung, 1992; Foltz, 2013; Furrow, 1935; Pace, et al., 1979)

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

Physical Description

Valvata tricarinata is 4.5 to 5.5 mm in diameter, and the shell morphology can vary over its range. With 4 1/2 to 5 whorls, the dextral (spiraling to the right) shell usually has three spiral ridges. This species has an operculum, which is a calcareous plate attached to the foot. When the snail retracts into it's shell, the operculum seals off the aperture. The operculum has many spirals which increase very slowly in width and is thin, flat and slightly concave. The soft part of the animal is usually blackish, except for the last third of the body whorl. The foot has white margins and is short, wide, and rounded behind. The tentacles are long, slender, pointed and black. Pallial tentacles (posterior tentacles) and the gill protrude from the shell. (Burch and Jung, 1992; Burch, 1989)

  • Range length
    4.5 to 5.5 mm
    0.18 to 0.22 in


Eggs of V. tricarinata measure 0.25 mm by 0.37 m. Four to eighteen eggs are deposited in a green gelationous capsule, and have taken 12 to 15 days to hatch in July and August. Under summer conditions, time from fertilization to maturity may take up to four months. (Furrow, 1935)


There is little information available about the mating habits of Valvata tricarinata. This species is hermaphroditic and mates during the warmer months of the year. (Burch and Jung, 1992; Burch, 1989)

Valvata tricarinata usually produces sperm cells first, then eggs, as a hermaphroditic species. Four to eighteen eggs (average ten) 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

There is no parental care after egg capsules are laid, though the egg capsules do represent an energy investment by the parent. (Burch, 1989; Furrow, 1935)

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning


Members of the genus Valvata may live up to two years. (Foltz, 2013)

  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    2 (high) years


Maximum densities in a northern Michigan population were recorded at approximately 30 snails per square meter and 50 snails per square meter at depths of 10 and 12 feet, respectively. Valvata tricarinata is usually found by aquatic vegetation. (Burch and Jung, 1992; Pace, et al., 1979)

Communication and Perception

Gastropods in general have a centralized nervous system. Valvata tricarinata has eye spots at the base of its tentacles, which perceive light. Chemosenses are likely also used to find food. (Burch and Jung, 1992; Burch, 1989)

Food Habits

Aquatic gastropods in general graze on algae, scraping surfaces with its radula. (Burch and Jung, 1992; Burch, 1989)

  • Plant Foods
  • algae


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

Ecosystem Roles

In general, freshwater snails graze on algae and are prey items for fish, water birds, and crayfish. Freshwater snails are also often intermediate hosts for trematodes. (Burch and Jung, 1992; Burch, 1989)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

There are no known positive effects of Valvata tricarinata on humans.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of Valvata tricarinata on humans.

Conservation Status

Valvata tricarinata does not currently have any conservation status.


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



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature


mainly lives in water that is not salty.


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


offspring are all produced in a single group (litter, clutch, etc.), after which the parent usually dies. Semelparous organisms often only live through a single season/year (or other periodic change in conditions) but may live for many seasons. In both cases reproduction occurs as a single investment of energy in offspring, with no future chance for investment in reproduction.


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


uses sight to communicate


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