Melampus Coffeus: The Coffee Bean Snail

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Coffee Bean Snail

The coffee bean snail, or Melampus coffeus, is a very small gastropod with coffee-like coloring. These small snails reach only about three quarters of an inch in length and one half inch in height. The shells are wide and taper into a narrow point around the base. They are usually brown, tan, gray, or yellow-brown. There are also two small bands that typically run around the shell that are lightly colored.

These snails are usually found in the shady, dense habitats in the shallow water, as well as above the tide line. They mostly prefer muddy areas near mangrove leaves or under small rocks. Because of this they enjoy living on cord grass that grows in the high marshes along the coast. These snails are sometimes found in the Southern half of Florida or in Brazil, but can also be found in the coastal salt marsh areas of Cape Cod.

A similar snail species to the coffee bean snail is the Melampus bidentatus snail. It is extremely similar in size and color but, if examined closely, displays spiral lines that are smoother and rougher than the straight lines found on the coffee bean snails. These snails have many predators. Examples of these are ground beetles, snakes, toads, turtles and birds. Like many snails the coffee bean snail is a hermaphrodite (has both male and female reproductive organs) that allows each snail to lay egg clusters after mating. Snails that are mating are found in pairs with the soles of their feet pressed together. Each snail is inseminated (to introduce semen into the genital tract of a female) by its partner.

They enjoy eating cord grass, and, when they can find it, dead or dying washed up eelgrass. They also enjoy vegetation such as dead marshgrass that has been slightly decayed.

The Coffee Bean Snail is a very interesting gastropod whose
characteristics are unmistakable. I hope they never go extinct. Who would eat the grass?

Hewell &...
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