CABI Blog

New research published today by scientists at CABI and the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) confirms that the apple snail Pomacea canaliculata has been discovered in Kenya for the first time. The scientists, including lead author and Microbiology Research Leader at CABI, Dr Alan Buddie, published their findings in the journal, CABI Agriculture and Bioscience.

Golden Apple Snails

The paper was also posted as a preprint on CABI’s agriRxiv platform in December 2020, which became one of the top 10 agriRxiv preprints of 2020.

CABI relaunched agriRxiv (pronounced agri-archive and previously known as AgriXiv) in 2020 as a platform for posting preprints – pre-peer reviewed versions of scholarly papers.

agriRxiv makes preprints across agriculture and allied sciences available to researchers and gives those who wish to share their papers online an opportunity to gain valuable feedback before submitting a final version to a journal and formal peer-review.

Research into the spread of invasive species is essential for protecting the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in low and middle-income countries. Introduced into new habits without natural enemies to keep them in check, invasives species – which include crop pests – can spread out of control and damage farmer incomes. It is essential to monitor the arrival of invasive species in new regions so that they can be controlled and managed.

Widely considered to be one of the most invasive invertebrates of waterways and irrigation systems, the apple snail now threatens Kenya’s rice production and raises the question, how much damage will it cause in Kenya and will it spread further?

The discovery of the apple snail came following reports of an invasive snail causing crop damage in the expansive Mwea irrigation scheme in Kenya, where samples of snails and associated egg masses were collected and sent to CABI laboratories in the UK for molecular identification. DNA barcoding analyses confirmed the identity of the snails as Pomacea canaliculata, a pest indigenous to the Americas.

This timely discovery shows the benefit of molecular identification when combined with a reliable database such as that provided by the Barcoding of Life Data system. CABI found that the egg masses tested gave an identical barcode sequence to the adult snails, allowing identifications to be made more rapidly.

Talking about the benefit of posting a preprint to agriRxiv on this important subject, Dr Buddie said, “A colleague suggested I use agriRxiv, which has proved useful. I’ve already been contacted by a researcher from Brazil after he saw a capture of the preprint in CAB Abstracts. He works on the apple snail in an area of natural control of invertebrate pests and is someone who I’d not normally encounter. So, I think this goes to show how helpful a preprint platform can be for connecting researchers globally.”

Continued research on Pomacea canaliculata, listed among ‘100 of the world’s worst invasive species’, will be vital. Its introduction and spread in South East Asia was thought to be largely due to intentional introduction and it has become a serious agricultural and ecological pest, causing significant economic losses in wetland rice cultivation and threatening biodiversity.

Quickly assessing and addressing the potential invasive species threat is essential. Farmers in Kenya are already talking about the damage caused to rice in Mwea, where over 70% of the country’s rice is grown.

Given the impact of this species in Asia, there is need for an assessment of the risk to Africa, and the implementation of an appropriate response in Kenya and elsewhere to manage this new threat to agriculture and the environment. Research is ongoing.

Click on the link to read the preprint in full

Interested in posting a preprint on agriRxiv? Click here and scroll down to Submission Guidelines to learn how.

Need help with editing, translating or disseminating and sharing your paper? Click here to learn about CABI’s Author Services.

Interested in submitting your paper to CABI’s journal, CABI Agriculture and Bioscience. Click here to learn more.

Click on the link to learn more about CABI’s work in invasive species.

Click on the link to see CABI’s open access Invasive Species Compendium.

Photo: Apple snail, © Ivan Rwomushana


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