Palatability and Chemical Defense of Phragmites australis to the Marsh Periwinkle Snail Littoraria irrorata

  • Lindsey G. Hendricks
  • Hannah E. Mossop
  • Cynthia E. Kicklighter


Coastal marsh habitats are impacted by many disturbances, including habitat destruction, pollution, and the introduction of invasive species. The common reed, Phragmites australis, has been particularly invasive in the mesohaline regions of the Chesapeake Bay, but few studies have investigated its role in trophic interactions with North American marsh consumers. The marsh periwinkle snail Littoraria irrorata is a common grazer in marshes and grazes on the native grass Spartina alterniflora. Whether this snail grazes on Phragmites has not been addressed. We found Spartina leaves to be tougher than those of Phragmites, but despite this, snails consumed significantly more Spartina than Phragmites. Subsequent experiments demonstrated that Phragmites is chemically deterrent to snails by an unknown, moderately polar, compound. Further studies are required to more fully understand the interactions between Phragmites, herbivores, and Spartina, and how they may impact marsh ecosystems.

Key Words

Estuarine Exotic Non-native Plant-herbivore Resistance to herbivory 



We thank Jordan Yoder for help with field collections and Ali Brock for snail care. Two anonymous reviewers improved the manuscript. Funding was provided to L.G.H. through a Goucher College Presidential fellowship and to H.M. and C.E.K. by the Goucher College summer research program.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lindsey G. Hendricks
    • 1
  • Hannah E. Mossop
    • 1
  • Cynthia E. Kicklighter
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesGoucher CollegeBaltimoreUSA

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