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Marsh Periwinkle

Littorina irrorata

Marsh periwinkles usually live on needlerush and saltmarsh cordgrass stalks. (NOAA Photo Library)
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Marsh periwinkles usually live on needlerush and saltmarsh cordgrass stalks. (NOAA Photo Library)

The marsh periwinkle is a small snail with a thick, spiraling shell. It lives in tidal marshes and wetlands throughout the middle and lower Chesapeake Bay.

Appearance:

Marsh periwinkles grow to 1 inch in length. Their spiraling, grooved shell has a slightly pointed spire and varies in color from grayish-white to tan. Reddish-brown flecks appear on the spiral ridges of the shell.

Habitat:

Found in low, sheltered tidal marshes and wetlands, usually living on needlerush and saltmarsh cordgrass stalks.

Range:

Common in the middle and lower Chesapeake Bay.

Feeding:

The marsh periwinkle grazes on algae and detritus on the surface of plants and the ground.

Predators:

Blue crabs, mud crabs and terrapins prey upon marsh periwinkles. It will avoid predators by climbing up marsh grass stalks.

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

Marsh periwinkles lay individual eggs into the water. Eggs hatch into free-swimming larvae, which develop into small snails in mid-summer.

Other Facts:

  • A marsh periwinkle use its gill to get oxygen from the water.
  • Marsh periwinkles are gastropods, a type of mollusk that includes whelks, snails and slugs.
  • These snails are known to practice "fungiculture": by chewing holes in the cordgrass and spreading waste across the cuts, the marsh periwinkle can "farm" fungus, their preferred food.

Sources and Additional Information:




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