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Coffee Bean Snail

Melampus bidentatus


Where it was photographed:  The low marshes across from the Forked River Interpretation Center in Island Beach State Park.

Note that this coffee bean snail is living on a piece of salt hay, one of the many bay grasses that are the building blocks of life in the Barnegat Bay.  These snails are most visible during flood tides, when they climb to the top of the grasses.

Scientists believe that coffee bean snails have an innate ability to know when the flood tides are coming before they actually arrive. The most important food chain of the estuary is the detrital* food chain of which the Coffee bean snail is a great conveyer. When the tide comes up, and the detritus or “marine soup” sticks to the grasses, the snail will make its way down the grass and eat the “marine soup” to gain the nutrients it needs to survive.  

 *Detritus - the bay grasses (primarily cord grass) in the estuary die and are decomposed by bacteria and fungi, this is “detritus,” the building block of all life in the estuary.