Nature conservation

Native animals

Identifying freshwater mussels in coastal NSW

Adult shells vary in size from about 50 to 200 mm in length but most shells fit snugly in the palm of your hand. The shell colour of mussels ranges from brown to black, although it can be green in young shells.

Freshwater mussels should not be confused with basket shells, another common bivalve which inhabits coastal rivers. Basket shells are small and triangular, reaching a maximum size of about 15 mm. The external shell of basket shells is usually orange while the internal surface has a purplish tinge.

MUSSELpdb is a comprehensive online database documenting specimen collections from major museums around the world. Use the database, together with information in the table below, to identify mussels in NSW.

 

Hyridella australis

 

Distribution in NSW: All streams. Most common in lower reaches

 

Microhabitat: Areas of still-slow current often in soft sediment. Found in alcoves near streambanks and behind logs, undercut banks, and impoundments behind weirs

 

Appearance: Angular, glossy-black, oblong-shaped shell. Heavy v-shaped sculpturing on beaks of small shells. Maximum shell length 90 mm.

 

Hyridella australis

Hyridella depressa

 

Distribution in NSW: All streams except the Hunter and Shoalhaven rivers

 

Microhabitat: Slow-moderate currents in sand or gravel of glides and pools

 

Appearance: Elongated dark brown shell. Fine beak sculpture on small shells. Maximum shell length 70 mm.

Hyridella depressa

Hyridella drapeta

 

Distribution in NSW: Absent or rare in the Hawkesbury-Nepean River and south of the Shoalhaven River

 

Microhabitat: Slow-moderate currents in sand or gravel of glides and pools

 

Appearance: Oval with smoothly curved outline, brown to slate-grey, never glossy. Fine beak sculpture on small shells. Maximum shell length 90 mm.

 

Hyridella drapeta

Hyridella narracanensis

 

Distribution in NSW: Upper reaches of Genoa River

 

Microhabitat: Moderate currents, often buried in sand or gravel. Small, shallow permanently flowing streams with intact riparian vegetation

 

Appearance: Almond-shaped, small shell, olive-purple brown. Heavy beak sculpture on small shells. Maximum shell length 60 mm.

Hyridella narracanensis

Cucumerunio novaehollandiae

 

Distribution in NSW: North from the Hunter River

 

Microhabitat: Moderate-strong currents, often in boulder-stabilised habitats on outer bends; pools at the base of riffles and cascades

 

Appearance: Large, elongated, brown-black shell. Tear-shaped nodules on posterior surface of shell. Maximum shell length 200 mm.

 

 

Cucumerunio novaehollandiae

Alathyria pertexta

 

Distribution in NSW: Richmond River upstream of Coraki

 

Microhabitat: Ranges from still water­s to fast-flowing runs; pools and impoundments

 

Appearance: Heavy, elongated-oval shell, brown-black. Beak sculpture absent. Maximum shell length 160 mm.

 

 

Alathyria pertexta

Alathyria profuga

 

Distribution in NSW: Manning, Karuah, Hunter and Shoalhaven rivers

 

Microhabitat: Slow-moderate current regimes

 

Appearance: Solid, oval shell, brown to grey-green. Beak sculpture absent. Maximum shell length 120 mm.

 

 

Alathyria profuga

Velesunio ambiguus

 

Distribution in NSW: Patchy distribution: Richmond, Clarence, Upper Macleay (Apsley River), Hawkesbury-Nepean rivers; western creeks of Shoalhaven River; Snowy River

 

Microhabitat: Still water or slow current areas in pools, farm dams, impoundments, lower reaches of rivers. Inhabits temporary creeks; broad environmental tolerance

 

Appearance: Oval, occasionally globose, light shell, yellow to dark brown. Beak sculpture absent. Maximum shell length 100 mm.

 

 

Velesunio ambiguus

More information



Was this page helpful?

Thank you for your feedback.

Would you like to tell us more?

Share this

Share to Facebook Share to Twitter More...
Page last updated: 04 March 2014