Fontigens nickliniana
Watercress snail

Key Characteristics

The watercress snail is a small, freshwater snail with a 3.5 to 4.5 mm long, narrowly conic, shiny, black shell with 4.5 to 7.5 well-rounded whorls and deep sutures where whorls border one another. The operculum (lid that seals the aperture) is roundly ovate with 4-5 rapidly enlarging spirals (paucispiral), and is about 1 mm in width.

Status and Rank

  • State Status: SC
  • State Rank: S2S3
  • Global Rank: G5


County NameNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
St. Joseph22009
Van Buren31947
Distribution map for Fontigens nickliniana

Updated 5/15/2018. Information is summarized from MNFI's database of rare species and community occurrences. Data may not reflect true distribution since much of the state has not been thoroughly surveyed.


This species is found on watercress (Naturtium officianale or Rorippa naturtium-aquaticum) in small lakes and ponds, springs, and spring-fed streams. Since watercress is an exotic invasive species of European origin and has only become common in our streams since the early 1900's, it is unlikely that the snail is limited to this plant species.

Natural Community Types


For each species, lists of natural communities were derived from review of the nearly 6,500 element occurrences in the MNFI database, in addition to herbarium label data for some taxa. In most cases, at least one specimen record exists for each listed natural community. For certain taxa, especially poorly collected or extirpated species of prairie and savanna habitats, natural community lists were derived from inferences from collection sites and habitat preferences in immediately adjacent states (particularly Indiana and Illinois). Natural communities are not listed for those species documented only from altered or ruderal habitats in Michigan, especially for taxa that occur in a variety of habitats outside of the state.

Natural communities are not listed in order of frequency of occurrence, but are rather derived from the full set of natural communities, organized by Ecological Group. In many cases, the general habitat descriptions should provide greater clarity and direction to the surveyor. In future versions of the Rare Species Explorer, we hope to incorporate natural community fidelity ranks for each taxon.


Draining, filling, and other hydrologic alterations should be avoided. This species is likely sensitive to pollution and contaminants. Other invasive plants that may crowd out watercress such as purple loosestrife should be controlled.

Active Period

Active from first week of May to first week of September

Survey Methods

This species can be surveyed using several techniques. One survey method consists of sweeping aquatic vegetation or scraping the substrate with a fine mesh aquatic sampling net or dip net (e.g., D-frame net). Visual surveys of watercress in suitable habitat also can be conducted to look for the watercress snail. Vegetation samples also can be collected and examined later for snails. Another survey technique consists of vigorously shaking aquatic vegetation over a pail of water causing the various snails clinging to the plants to drop to the bottom of the pail.

Page Citation

Michigan Natural Features Inventory. 2007. Rare Species Explorer (Web Application). Available online at [Accessed Sep 23, 2018]


Survey References

Technical References

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