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Research Article

Checklist and Habitat Descriptions of Edible Gastropods from Sarawak, Malaysia

H. Hamli, M.H. Idris, M.K. Abu Hena, S.K. Wong and A. Arshad
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Sarawak comprises of vast areas of wetland which is the habitat of huge number of edible gastropods. Among the wetland faunal composition, the edible gastropod is one of the important sources of animal protein for the local communities. This diversity of edible gastropod was studied from seven Divisions of Sarawak namely Kuching, Sibu, Mukah, Bintulu, Miri, Limbang and Lawas. Samples were collected from the wet market and catches from local fishermen. A total of 21 species representing 11 families and 16 genera of edible gastropods were identified from Sarawak. Cerithidea spp. was represented by three species while both Nerita and Pomacea were made up of three and two species each. Others were each represented by one single species. Six edible gastropod species belonged to the freshwater habitat while seven and eight species were recorded from brackish and marine habitats, respectively. Cerithidea and Pomacea showed wide geography amongst the Division and also highly distributed. Edible gastropods have high market value in the state of Sarawak and contribute significantly to the livelihoods of the certain indigenous communities in the state.

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H. Hamli, M.H. Idris, M.K. Abu Hena, S.K. Wong and A. Arshad, 2013. Checklist and Habitat Descriptions of Edible Gastropods from Sarawak, Malaysia. Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Science, 8: 412-418.

DOI: 10.3923/jfas.2013.412.418

Received: October 04, 2012; Accepted: October 20, 2012; Published: January 15, 2013


Gastropods are univalve mollusks that are widely distributed in both freshwater and marine environments. The monsoonal season at Southeast Asia provide nutrients enriched environment for these organisms which help to sustain the number of gastropod in this area (Vermeij, 1978). Rich number of gastropod provides as an important source of protein for human besides fish. Many of the Sarawak species are edible and well liked by the local people hence they are widely sought after and this has led to the dwindling status of these species.

The state of Sarawak with diverse ecological habitat is hypothetically inhabited by many aquatic gastropod species. Several studies found that the diversity, abundance and distribution of gastropod at different habitat influence by physicochemical parameters, climatic condition and soil. Gastropod diversity is also influenced by habitat characteristics especially on sediment moisture and organic content (Armitage and Fong, 2004). Furthermore, rough habitat like intertidal area, acidic, high temperature and rich sulphide environment are only suitable for certain gastropod species (Metabos et al., 2008).

Sarawak has been recognized as one of the important center of biodiversity hotspot in Southeast Asia. Despite several studies of the Malaysian gastropods ecology and diversity, it is still inadequate when compared with others region. There are few studies on gastropod nursery habitat (Cob et al., 2010), diversity (Schilthuizen et al., 2003; Supian and Ikhwanuddin, 2002; Abu Hena et al., 2004) in Malaysian wetland habitats. On the other hand, the published information on edible gastropod is not well documented in Sarawak. Hence, the aim of this study was to identify the edible gastropod species, record the distribution and habitat where they dwelled in the eight Divisions of the state of Sarawak.


Study area: Gastropod samples were collected from native wet market and fishing villages from seven different Divisions of Sarawak, East Malaysia namely Kuching, Mukah, Sibu, Bintulu, Miri, Limbang and Lawas (Table 1, Fig. 1). Samples were collected from August 2010 to July 2011. Habitat area was recorded according to information survey from the local fishermen. All collected samples were kept in the icebox and transferred to the laboratory for taxonomic identification.

Species identification: Gastropod species identification was made according to Poutiers (1998), Nateewathana (1995), Mujiano (2009), Perez et al. (2004), Kohler and Glaubrecht (2001) and Tan and Clements (2008).

Image for - Checklist and Habitat Descriptions of Edible Gastropods from Sarawak, Malaysia
Fig. 1: Sampling area location showing seven divisions at Sarawak, Malaysia

Table 1: Sampling sites and total number of gastropod species recorded in Sarawak region, Malaysia
Image for - Checklist and Habitat Descriptions of Edible Gastropods from Sarawak, Malaysia

Important morphological parameters such as shell length and width were measured using digital vernier caliper at ±0.01 mm. Each of samples was photographed by digital camera and redrawn to perfection. Conspicuous and distinctive morphological characteristics were also recorded.


The mollusk existence in Sarawak showed variety of edible gastropods which has high market demand and popular to the local people as food. These edible gastropods were found in broad range of habitats such as freshwater, brackish and marine. This study found that more than half of the edible gastropods inhabits in the wetlands of Bintulu. Moreover, the recorded species was distributed uneven within selected divisions. A total of 21 species of gastropod representing 11 families were identified (Fig. 2, Table 2) from the seven Sarawak’s Division. Among the gastropod species, eight species were from marine, seven species from brackish and six species from freshwater habitat (Table 3). The common species was from the family Potamididae such as Cerithidea rizophorarum and C. obtusa and these two species were found in higher numbers at Kuching, Sibu, Mukah, Miri, Limbang, and Lawas. The highest species richness of the gastropods was found in Bintulu (13 species) and this was followed by collection from Kuching (6 species).

Other gastropod species viz. Brotia costula, Melanoides costellaris, Pomacea bridgesii, Cerithidea quadrata, Telescopium telescopium, Clithon retropictus, Melo melo, Ellobium aurisjudae, Nerita chamaeleon, N. albicilla, Trochus radiatus, Planaxis sulcatus, Monodonta labio, Turbo crassus and Thais aculeata were distributed irregularly in different Divisions of the state of Sarawak.

Potamididae was the most dominant species of gastropod found and this in agreement with the studies done by Aroon et al. (2004) in the eastern Thailand. Apart from this, these edible gastropods have had high market demand at Phuket Island, Thailand (Somchai, 1995).

Six species of gastropod belongings to three families (Ampullariidae, Thiaridae and Pachychilidae) were recorded from freshwater habitat in Kuching, Bintulu, Miri and Limbang. Previously, the freshwater gastropod species Brotia sp. was also reported from Malaysian Peninsular as well as from Sumatra, Java and Borneo (Kohler and Glaubrecht, 2002).

The edible gastropods from coastal and marine habitats were the more dominant group and firstly been reported from the six coastal waters Divisions of Sarawak. Studies on edible and non edible gastropods were recorded 384, 44, 22 and 15 species within Southeast Asia (Wong and Arshad, 2011; Ashton et al., 2003; Matsuura et al., 2000; Phuket Marine Biological Center, 2006).

Table 2: Checklist of gastropod species existing from seven different divisions in Sarawak
Image for - Checklist and Habitat Descriptions of Edible Gastropods from Sarawak, Malaysia
+: Present, -: Absent

Table 3: Habitat and morphological characteristics of edible gastropod recorded from the selected division of Sarawak, Malaysia
Image for - Checklist and Habitat Descriptions of Edible Gastropods from Sarawak, Malaysia

Image for - Checklist and Habitat Descriptions of Edible Gastropods from Sarawak, Malaysia
Fig. 2(a-u): Edible gastropods from Sarawak (a) Cerithidea obtusa, (b) Cerithidea rizophorarum, (c) Trochus radiatus, (d) Cerithidea quadrata, (e) Telescopium telescopium, (f) Monodonta labio, (g) Nerita articulata, (h) Nerita chamaeleon, (I) Melo melo, (j) Nerita albicilla, (k) Clithon retropictus, (l) Planaxis sulcatus (m) Brotia costula, (n) Melanoides costellaris, (o) Thais aculeata (p) Blanocochlis glandiformis, (q) Tylomelania helmuti (r) Turbo crassus, (s) Pomacea canaliculata, (t) Ellobium aurisjudae and (u) Pomacea bridgesii

The present study also found that the collected gastropod species have occupied and registered from the various fresh, brackish and marine aquatic habitats.


This study revealed 21 species of edible gastropod from the wetlands of Sarawak representing from 11 families and 16 genera. Six edible gastropods inhabit in freshwater habitat while others were from brackish and marine habitats. Cerithidea and Pomacea showed wide geography amongst the division and distributed widely. The present study provides new information on edible gastropods in Sarawak which could be helpful for future reference for scientists working on wetland gastropods.


The authors would like to thanks the deanery and staffs from Department of Animal Science and Fishery, Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences, Universiti Putra Malaysia Bintulu Sarawak Campus for technical, logistic supports and laboratory facilities provided. Author would also like to thank the Ministry of Higher Education, for the research grant (5523703 FRGS), which made this study possible.


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