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Acta Scientiarum 

 

http://www.uem.br/acta 
ISSN printed: 1679-9283 
ISSN on-line: 1807-863X 
Doi: 10.4025/actascibiolsci.v39i3.34631 

 

Acta Scientiarum. Biological Sciences 

Maringá, v. 39, n. 3, p. 293-300, July-Sept., 2017 

Freshwater gastropods in the Northern littoral mesoregion of 

Espírito Santo, Brazil 

Marco Antônio Andrade de Souza 

Departamento de Ciências da Saúde, Centro Universitário Norte do Espírito Santo, Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo, Rodovia BR-101 
Norte, Km 60, s/n, 29932-900, Litorâneo, São Mateus, Espírito Santo, Brazil. E-mail: marco.souza@ufes.br  

ABSTRACT. Studies on the distribution of molluscs in Brazil have been conducted since the beginning 
of the twentieth and the knowledge of the species distributed in the country represent important findings, 
which contribute to the understanding of human diseases and those of veterinary importance, transmitted 
by  them.  In  order  to  verify  the  distribution  of  freshwater  gastropods  in  Espírito  Santo,  a  malacological 
surveywas carried out in nine municipalities that comprise the Northern mesoregion of the State, between 
January 2010 and February 2015. Initially the water collections occurring in the municipality were verified 
and the lotic systems at different levels of use and conservation were determined. Molluscs were collected 
monthly using a hand net adapted to a stick steel. An individual sample effort of 30 minutes was applied, by 
scanning, at about ten meters in each one of the selected habitats. A total of 6,000 specimens were collected, 
represented by genera Melanoides,  Drepanotrema,  Physa,  Biomphalaria and Pomacea. Among the molluscs, 
some specimens were positive for flatworm larvae of medical and veterinary importance. The results 
contributed to the knowledge of the current distribution of freshwater gastropods in the Northern region 
of Espírito Santo whose the only record for the region dates back to 1983.

 

Keywords: zoology, invertebrates, molluscs, habitats diversity, ecology. 

Gastrópodes de água doce da mesorregião Litoral Norte do Espírito Santo, Brasil 

RESUMO. Estudos sobre a distribuição de moluscos no Brasil vêm sendo realizados desde os primórdios 
do século XX e o conhecimento das espécies distribuídas no país representam achados importantíssimos ao 
entendimento das doenças humanas e de importância veterinária. Com o objetivo de verificar a distribuição 
dos gastrópodes de água doce no Espírito Santo, realizou-se um levantamento malacológico em nove 
municípios que compõem a mesorregião Norte do Estado, entre janeiro de 2010 e fevereiro de 2015. 
Inicialmente, foi realizada uma verificação das coleções hídricas ocorrentes nos municípios e os sistemas 
lóticos em diferentes níveis de utilização e conservação foram determinados. Os moluscos foram coletados 
mensalmente, utilizando-se de uma rede de mão (puçá), adaptada a um cabo de madeira. Foi aplicado um 
esforço amostral individual de 30 minutos, por varredura, em cerca de dez metros de extensão, em cada um 
dos habitats selecionados. Foram coletados 6.000 espécimes de moluscos, representados pelos gêneros 
MelanoidesDrepanotremaPhysaBiomphalaria e Pomacea. Alguns exemplares apresentaram-se positivos para 
larvas de trematódeos de importância médico-veterinária. Os resultados contribuíram para o conhecimento 
da atual distribuição dos gastrópodes de água doce da região Norte do estado do Espírito Santo, cujo único 
registro para a região data do ano de 1983. 

Palavras-chave: zoologia, invertebrados, moluscos, diversidade de habitats, ecologia. 

Introduction 

Limnic molluscs play a relevant role in the 

ecosystems they inhabit. They play an important 
role in the trophic chain, and are used as food by 
fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals, 
among them, man (Drügg-Hahn, Lopes-Pitoni, 
Cunha, & Carvalho, 2007).  

Estimates of the number of species in the world 

are very variable, up to two hundred thousand. It is 
estimated that there are approximately 4,000 species 
of freshwater gastropods, of which 224  are  in Brazil 

(Simone, 2006; Strong, Gargominy, Ponder, & 

Bouchet, 2008). Despite this enormous diversity, 

studies on this group are not very frequent, since 

half of the existing mollusc species have not yet been 

described (Mansur et al., 2003). On the other hand 

they are of special importance in freshwater 

collections by the number of species and function in 

the trophic chains, serving as food for a large 

number of animals, such as fish, birds and mammals 

(Drügg-Hahn et al., 2007). 

In Brazil, the most common gastropods belong 

to the families Planorbidae, Ampullariidae, 

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Hydrobiidae, Thiaridae and Pleuroceridae (Drügg-
Hahn et al., 2007) and practices such as barrier 

construction, canalization, drainage and pollution of 

water bodies, especially by the indiscriminate use of 

pesticides in crops, have contributed to the 

destruction of the natural habitat of many species, 

causing their disappearance, as observed in several 

records of anthropogenic actions over time (Mansur 

et al., 2003; Allan, 2004; Souza & Melo, 2012; 

Muller, Granada & Sperotto, 2016). Additionally, 

the introduction of exotic mollusc species such as 

Melanoides tuberculata has contributed to the 

elimination of certain native species (Avellar, 1999; 

Mansur et al., 2012). 

Among the gastropods, a group of more 

numerous and diverse animals of the phylum 
Mollusca, the Biomphalaria (Planorbidae), 
intermediate hosts of Schistosoma mansoni, stand out, 
since they are responsible for the maintenance and 
propagation of schistosomiasis, a disease that affects 
millions of individuals worldwide and, in Brazil, is 
still a public health problem (SBMT, 2013; Amorim 
et al., 2014). 

In fact, the three main host species of 

schistosomiasis occur in the State of Espírito Santo. 
Paraense (1986) reports that the most important 
species, both for amplitude distribution and 
transmission efficiency, is Biomphalaria glabrata (Say, 
1818), which is responsible for most of the disease 
outbreaks in the Southeastern region of Brazil 
(Souza et al., 2001; Guimarães et al., 2009). 
However, although B. straminea (Dunker, 1848) is 
the species found in almost all the watersheds of the 
country and adapted to climatic variations, its 
natural infection occurs predominantly in 
Northeastern states (Favre et al., 2016). On the 
other hand, the main intermediate host species of 
schistosomiasis in the South and part of 
Southeastern Brazil is B. tenagophila (Orbigny, 1835) 
(Paraense, 1986; Guimarães et al., 2009).  

The first reference to a planorbidae mollusc in 

Espírito Santo was described by Giemsa & Nauck 
(1939) and, since then, records on mollusc 
collections of different orders and species, as well as 
the occurrence of schistosomiasis in the State, have 
been reported in a discontinuous way. The emphasis 
has been on ecology, on the control of intermediate 
host molluscs and on the epidemiological disease 
determinants. 

As in most parts of Brazil, the Northern region 

of Espírito Santo presents municipalities with 
serious public sanitation problems, which provides 
ideal conditions for the maintenance of mollusc 
breeding sites, such as schistosomiasis transmitters. 

On the other hand, little is known about the 
presence of limnic molluscs in the region and on 
individuals parasitized by S. mansoni since the study 
conducted by Paraense, Aires de Alencar, and 
Corrêa (1983) and the data of the Schistosomiasis 
Control Program are the main references in the 
State. 

In this context, considering the scarcity of 

information on the distribution of freshwater 
gastropods in the Northern region of Espírito Santo 
a protocol for evaluating habitat diversity was 
applied as a tool to aid the development of the 
research, and the results obtained brought current 
information about the real distribution of these 
invertebrates in the State. 

Material and methods 

Study area  

Espírito Santo, one of Brazil's 27 federative units, 

located in the Southeast region, borders the Atlantic 
Ocean to the East, Bahia to the North, Minas Gerais 
to the West and Northwest, and the state of Rio de 
Janeiro to the South. Its area is 46,089,390 km² and 
it still houses an important strip of Atlantic forest 
remaining in the country (IBGE, 2016). 

This study covered the municipalities: Boa 

Esperança (18º 32' 24" S 40º 17' 45" W), Conceição 
da Barra (18º 35' 36" S 39º 43' 56" W), Jaguaré (18º 
54' 20" S 40º 04' 34" W), Montanha (18º 07' 37" S 
40º 21' 48" W), Mucurici (18º 05' 36" S 40º 30' 57" 
W), Pedro Canário (18º 01' 49" S 40º 09' 02" W), 
Pinheiros (18º 22' 13" S 40º 12' 48" W), Ponto Belo 
(18º 07' 25" S 40º 32' 28" W) and São Mateus (18º 
42' 58" S 39º 51' 32" W), belonging to the Northern 
littoral mesoregion of Espírito Santo, are presented 
in the map shown in Figure 1 (SIT, 2016). 

Assessment of habitat diversity  

Initially, a verification of the water collections 

performed in the municipalities was carried out. 
The lotic systems at different levels of use and 
conservation that may represent the ecological 
variability within the basins that comprise the 
municipality were determined. A protocol was 
applied, according to Callisto, Ferreira, Moreno, 
Goulart, & Petrucio (2002) with modifications, for 
evaluating habitat diversity as a tool for the 
development of the study (Table 1). Observations of 
geographic location, water pH, vegetation, 
hypsometric characteristics and territorial 
morphological units of the municipalities were 
included in this study. 

 

 

 

 

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Figure 1. Northern littoral mesoregion of Espírito Santo. Source: Souza, 2016. Personal archive. 

Mollusc collection 

The molluscs were collected monthly for 60 

months, between January 2010 and February 2015, 
using a hand net (“puçá”), made of nylon (50 cm 
wide, 40 cm high, 30 cm open and 1 mm

2

 mesh), 

adapted to a wooden or steel handle (150 cm long). 
An individual sample effort of 30 minutes per sweep 
was applied, in about 10 (ten) meters in each  of  the 

selected habitats (Souza, Souza, Machado-Coelho, & 

Melo, 2006). In each of the municipalities under 

study three annual collections were carried out, 

making a total of 10 collections over a period of 5 

years. All collected material was packed in plastic 

bags, labeled and transported to the Parasitology 

Laboratory of Northern Espírito Santo University 

Center,  Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo, for 

sorting and identification. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Table 1. Rapid assessment of habitat diversity in watershed areas, modified from the protocol of the Environmental Protection Agency 
(Callisto et al., 2002). Note: 4 points (natural situation), 2 and 0 points (slightly or deeply altered). 

Location: Date 

of 

collection: 

Time of collection: 

Time (situation of the day): 

Collection mode (Collector): 

Water pH: 

Type of environment:  

Stream (  )    River (  )    Lake (  )    Pond (  )    Waterfall (  ) 

Parameters 

Score 

4 points 

2 points 

0 point 

1 - Type of occupation at the  

margin of water bodies (main activity) 

Native vegetation 

Pasture/Agriculture/Monoculture/ 

Reforestation 

Residential/Commercial/Industrial 

2 - Erosion near river margins and 

silting of the riverbed  

Absent Moderate 

Accentuated 

3 -Anthropic alterations 

Absent 

Alterations of domestic origin  

(sewage, garbage) 

Alterations of industrial/urban origin 

(factories, iron and steel industry, 

canalization, reuse of the river course)

4 - Plant coverage in the riverbed 

Partial 

Total 

Absent 

5 - Water odor 

None 

Sewage  

(rotten egg) 

Oil/Industrial 

6 - Water oiliness 

Absent Moderate 

Abundant 

7 - Water transparency 

Transparent 

Turbid 

Opaque or colorful 

8 - Odor of the sediment (bottom) 

None 

Sewage  

(rotten egg) 

Oil/Industrial 

9 - Bottom oiliness  

Absent Moderate 

Abundant 

10 - Type of bottom 

Rocks/rubble 

Mud/sand 

Cement/canalized 

 

 

Identification of molluscs 

For species identification, conchological and 

morphological parameters were considered, 

according PAHO (1968) and Paraense (1975). 

Results 

Molluscs were found in the following 

municipalities: Boa Esperança, Conceição da Barra, 

Jaguaré, Montanha, Mucurici, Pedro Canário, 

Pinheiros, Ponto Belo and São Mateus, which make 

up the Northern littoral mesoregion of Espírito 

Santo. A total of 6,000 specimens was verified in the 

collection stations previously determined, with 976 

Biomphalaria glabrata, 1991 B. straminea, 96 

Drepanotrema cimex, 168 D. lucidum, 244 Physa ornata

2491 M. tuberculata and 34 Pomacea lineata (Table 2). 

The results of the application of the habitat 

diversity protocol at the sites defined for mollusc 

collections, indicated some type of anthropic 
alteration (Figure 2). 

It was also observed that most of the collected 

molluscs were found in aquatic collections that 

presented anthropic alterations of domestic origin, 

such as the presence of garbage and/or sewage, or 

changes of industrial/urban origin, such as the 

presence of factories and/or steel plants with waste 

disposal to the aquatic collection or canalization 

and/or reuse of the water course. It was also verified 

that the collection stations where the molluscs were 

found presented altitudes ranging from 7.3 m to 

266.7 m in relation to sea level (Table 3). 

 

Figure 2.  Rapid assessment of habitat diversity. Collection sites 
in municipalities from Northern Espírito Santo. Impacted areas: 
up to 20 points; Altered areas: > 20 < 36 points; Natural areas: > 
36 points.

 Northern mesoregion of Espírito Santo. 

Discussion 

Over time, more and more man-made 

environmental changes have been observed in the 
State, which was indeed verified in this study, and 
this poses a serious risk to aquatic fauna, 
especially freshwater molluscs, such as what has 
occurred in Brazil (Souza & Melo, 2012; Muller 
et al., 2016). 

In this context, the assessment of habitat 

diversity provided an opportunity to analyze the 
levels of anthropogenic impacts on watershed 
stretches of municipalities in the Northern littoral 
mesoregion of Espírito Santo, and it is an important 
tool in environmental monitoring programs 
(Callisto et al., 2002). 

 

 

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Table 2. Distribution of freshwater molluscs in the Northern littoral mesoregion of Espírito Santo, 2016. 

Municipality 

Collection Station 

Species 

Number of specimens 

Geographic coordinates 

Boa Esperança 

Physa ornata (Haas, 1938) 

S 18° 25’ 51.8’’ W 040° 23’ 31.6’’ 

Conceição da Barra 

Drepanotrema cimex (Moricand, 1839) 

12 

S 18° 25' 37.5" W 039° 56' 05.4" 

Drepanotrema lucidum (Pfeiffer, 1839) 

S 18° 34' 10.5" W 039° 45' 13.9" 

Jaguaré 1 

D. lucidum 

14 

S 18°54'41.31" W 40° 4'14.03" 

Montanha 

Biomphalaria straminea (Dunker, 1848) 

500 

S 18° 07’ 22.6’’ W 040° 22’ 08.1’’ 

Melanoides tuberculata (Muller, 1774) 

450 

B. straminea 

510 

S 18° 07’ 19.6’’ W 040° 22’ 04.8’’ 

B. straminea 

933 

D. lucidum 

48 

Biomphalaria glabrata (Say, 1818) 

713 

S 18° 11’ 52.0’’ W 040° 15’ 41.7’’ 

P. ornata 

16 

B. glabrata  

98 

S 18° 12’ 08.4’’ W 040° 15’ 45.3’’ 

D. lucidum 

73 

Pomacea lineata (Spix, 1827) 

22 

P. ornata 

49 

Mucurici 

B. straminea 

S 18° 01’ 37.0’’ W 040° 38’ 24.6’’ 

D. cimex 

B. straminea 

625 

S 18° 05’ 46.4’’ W 040° 31’ 03.2’’ 

D. cimex 

27 

P. lineata 

P. ornata 

67 

Pedro Canário 

B. straminea 

250 

S 18° 17’ 54.8’’ W 039° 57’ 18.9’’ 

P. lineata 

B. straminea 

S 18° 04’ 52.9’’ W 040° 06’ 29.2’’ 

Pinheiros 

B. glabrata  

70 

S 18° 24’ 31.2’’ W 040° 13’ 05.8’’ 

P. ornata 

B. glabrata 

135 

S 18° 26’ 28.8’’ W 040° 12’ 56.1’’ 

D. cimex 

53 

P. ornata 

69 

Ponto Belo 

B. straminea 

50 

S 18° 07’ 47.2’’ W 040° 29’ 15.3’’ 

M. tuberculata 

1108 

São Mateus 

D. lucidum 

26 

S 18° 43'4. 53" W 39° 51' 10.35" 

P.  ornata 

32 

2

B. straminea

 

9

S 18° 46' 21.93" W 39° 48' 23.49"

 

Table 3. Anthropic alterations and altitude of mollusc collection stations in the Northern littoral mesoregion of Espírito Santo, 2016. 

Municipality 

Collection 

station 

Altitude (m)* 

Type of alteration 

Boa Esperança 

144.2 

Alterations of domestic origin (sewage, garbage) 

Conceição da 

Barra 

1 7.3 

Alterations of domestic origin (sewage, garbage) 

2 17.0 

Alterations of industrial / urban origin (factories, iron and steel industry, canalization, reuse of the 

river course) 

Jaguaré 1 

69.0 

Alterations of industrial / urban origin (factories, iron and steel industry, canalization, reuse of the 

river course) 

Montanha 

1 168.2 

Alterations of domestic origin (sewage, garbage) 

2 149.5 

Alterations of domestic origin (sewage, garbage) 

3 108.2 

Alterations of industrial / urban origin (factories, iron and steel industry, canalization, reuse of the 

river course) 

4 104.8 

Alterations of domestic origin (sewage, garbage) 

Mucurici 

1 266.7 

Absence of alterations 

2 215.2 

Alterations of domestic origin (sewage, garbage) 

Pedro Canário 

1 64.6 

Alterations of industrial / urban origin (factories, iron and steel industry, canalization, reuse of the 

river course) 

2 98.7 

Alterations of industrial / urban origin (factories, iron and steel industry, canalization, reuse of the 

river course) 

Pinheiros 

1 110.6 

Alterations of industrial / urban origin (factories, iron and steel industry, canalization, reuse of the 

river course) 

2 96.0 

Alterations of domestic origin (sewage, garbage) 

Ponto Belo 

218.8 

Alterations of industrial / urban origin (factories, iron and steel industry, canalization, reuse of the 

river course) 

São Mateus 

1 24.0 

Alterations of domestic origin (sewage, garbage) 

2 6.0 

Absence of alterations 

* Altitude (m) of the collection station in relation to sea level 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In fact, in this study, the largest number of places 

with the presence of molluscs had residential 

occupancy along the water body, changes of 

domestic origin, such as garbage and sewage, and the 

presence of plant cover in the bed, very favorable to 

mollusc fixation, especially M. tuberculata, an exotic 

species, resistant to low concentrations of dissolved 

oxygen and of the genus Biomphalaria (Dudgeon, 

1986; Vaz, Teles, Correa, & Leite, 1986; Freitas, 

Bedê, De Marco Jr., Rocha, & Santos, 1987). In 

areas previously determined for mollusc collections, 

a predominance of fields and pastures was also 

observed, indistinctly represented by regions devoid 

of arboreal vegetation and by regions deforested by 

human activity, with soft terrains, whose altitudes 

are lower than 300 m, as verified by Souza and Melo 

(2012), in studies conducted in Minas Gerais, 

Pernambuco and Espírito Santo.  

The soft undulating relief unit has the largest 

distribution in the area of Espírito Santo, where 

slopes lower than 35% predominate. This 

characteristic is in agreement with the hypsometric 

analysis carried out in the municipalities of the 

northern region of Espírito Santo, where the largest 

number of locations with molluscs was found in 

regions of lower altitude. In fact, in these regions are 

the best conditions for urban development, and 

consequently, there is a greater human performance 

(PDUAM, 2003; Ges, 2017). 

Regarding molluscs, the specimens D. cimexD. 

lucidumM. tuberculataP. lineataPhysa ornata, besides 
B. glabratra and B. straminea should be highlighted in 

the municipalities of the northern region of Espírito 

Santo.  

A fact of particular importance is that Thiara (M. 

tuberculata) have been widely spread, and their 

reproductive potential has facilitated the rapid 

development of populations. They are natural to 

Asia and are found in many tropical and subtropical 

countries, whose ability to colonize various types of 

habitats limits or excludes certain species of 

pulmonates, particularly those related to 

schistosomiasis (Freitas et al., 1987; Pointier & 

McCullough, 1989; Pinto & Melo, 2013). In Brazil, 

they were mentioned for the first time in São Paulo 

by Vaz et al. (1986), who emphasized the role of this 

mollusc as an intermediate host of Clonorchis sinensis

and the species was found in Rio de Janeiro and 

Minas Gerais, harboring trematode larvae 

(Boaventura, Fernandez, Thiengo, Silva, & Melo, 

2002; Pinto & Melo, 2013). 

Not less important, the presence of molluscs 

BiomphalariaS. mansoni intermediates, was related to 

impacted areas (Souza & Melo, 2012), especially in 

the municipalities of Mucurici, Montanha, 

Pinheiros and Pedro Canário. Several collection 

stations presented environmental conditions with 

some anthropic modification and, although none of 

the molluscs showed positive for S. mansoni, the very 

presence of infected residents or seasonal workers in 

the region, as verified by Amorim et al. (2014), may 

favor the spread of schistosomiasis.  

It is also worth mentioning that in higher areas 

and in places with greater anthropogenic 

contribution, P. ornata and P. lineata, associated with 

B. glabrata and B. straminea, were found. In general, 

the distribution of molluscs between aquatic systems 

occurs passively, which provides them with a large 

range of distribution, with waterbirds as the main 

dispersing agents of these organisms (Russel-Hunt, 

1978). 

Conclusion 

Considering that the only record on the 

distribution of molluscs in the northern region of 

Espírito Santo was performed by Paraense et al. 

(1983) the results of this study provide new 

information on the dynamics of freshwater 

gastropods in the State and contribute to the 

development of research on species richness and 

their interactions with the environment. In addition, 

they reveal the need for permanent monitoring, due 

to the significant presence of invading molluscs, 

which can change the dynamics of population 

densities. 

Acknowledgments 

To Geological Engineer Dr. Leonardo Andrade 

de Souza from Zemlya Consulting and Services for 

the preparation of cartographic map. 

To technicians from the National Health 

Foundation (FUNASA) João Afonso and Luiz do 

Rosário for assistance in field work. 

To governmental agencies FAPES, 

DECIT/SCTIE/MS, CNPq, SESA and UFES for 

granting financial support for the conduction of 

studies. 

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Received on December 22, 2016. 

Accepted on May 22, 2017. 

 

 

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