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Alathyria jacksoni Iredale, 1934

Diagnostic features

This species has a suboval (height/length index 55-60%) shell, with its anterior end narrower;  maximum length about 150 mm; posterior dorsal margin winged in moderate currents, arched in strong currents; strong hinge, pseudocardinals erect and denticulate.


Alathyria jacksoni Iredale, 1934

Common name: Freshwater mussel

Class Bivalvia

Subclass Heteroconchia

Superorder Palaeoheterodonta

Order Unionida

Superfamily Unionoidea

Family Hyriidae

Subfamily: Hyriinae

Genus Alathyria Iredale, 1934

Original name: Alathyria jacksoni Iredale, 1934. Iredale, T. (1934). The freshwater mussels of Australia. Australian Zoologist 8: 57-78.

Type locality: Barwon River, New South Wales.

Synonyms: Alathyria jacksoni allani Iredale, 1943. Alathyria selwyni Iredale, 1943. 

State of taxonomy

The last major taxonomic revision of Australian freshwater mussels was by McMichael and Hiscock (1958). Based on the available molecular results, Walker et al. (2014) pointed out that a re-assessment of Australian hyriids is needed.

Biology and ecology

Main channels of the Murray-Darling river system in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. Shallow burrower in silty mud and sand in rivers and creeks, generally in flowing water.

Suspension feeder. Larvae (glochidia) are brooded in the gills of females and, when released, become parasitic on fish gills before dropping to the sediment as young mussels. This species occurs as different growth forms in moderate to strong currents: the moderate current form has a distinct dorsal blade or 'wing', whereas the fast current form has a dorsal arch, apparently permitting greater foot extension and a more secure anchorage (Ball & Walker, 1991).

Additional information on the biology and ecology of members of this family can be found in Fauna of Australia, vol. 5A, pp. 297-298.


Permanent lower sections of rivers in Murray-Darling Basin in Queensland and New South Wales, excelpt Lachlan and Murrumbidgee Rivers, New South Wales.


There are two growth forms of Alathyria jacksoni, one being found in strong currents and has a pronounced dorsal arch (and a ventral sinuation in larger specimens) while shells from more moderate currents have a straight dorsal margin and the wing development is variable. The two forms intergrades are common (Walker 1981).

Further reading

Balla, S. A. & Walker, K. F. (1991). Shape variation in the Australian freshwater mussel Alathyria jacksoni Iredale (Bivalvia, Hyriidae). Hydrobiologia 220: 89-98.

Beesley, P. L., Ross, G. J. B. & Wells, A., Eds. (1998). Mollusca: The Southern Synthesis. Parts A & B. Melbourne, CSIRO Publishing.

Haas, F. (1969). Superfamilia Unionacea. Das Terreich, 88 (1-10), 1-663.

Iredale, T. (1934). The freshwater mussels of Australia. Australian Zoologist 8: 57-78 pls 3-6.

Iredale, T. (1943). A basic list of the fresh water Mollusca of Australia. Australian Zoologist 10: 188-230.

Lamprell, K. & Healy, J. (1998). Bivalves of Australia, volume 2. Leiden, Backhuys Publishers.

McMichael, D. F. & Hiscock, I. D. (1958). A monograph of the freshwater mussels (Mollusca: Pelecypoda) of the Australian region. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 9: 372-508.

Negri, A. P. & Jones, G. J. (1995). Bioaccumulation of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) toxins from the cyanobacterium Anabaena circinalis by the freshwater mussel Alathyria condola. Toxicon 33: 667-678. 

Sheldon, F. & Walker, K. F. (1989). Effects of hypoxia on oxygen consumption by two species of freshwater mussel (Unionacea: Hyriidae) from the River Murray [Australia]. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 40: 491-499

Smith, B. J. & Kershaw, R. C. (1979). Field guide to the non-marine Molluscs of South-eastern Australia. Canberra, A.N.U. Press

Walker, K. F. (1981a). The ecology of freshwater mussels in the River Murray. Australian Water Research Council Technical Papers 63: 1-119.

Walker, K. F. (1981b). The distribution of freshwater mussels (Mollusca: Pelecypoda) in the Australian zoogeographic region. Pp. 1233-1249 in A. Keast. Ecological Biogeography of Australia. The Hague, Dr W. Junk.

Walker, K. F. (2004). A guide to the provisional identification of the freshwater mussels (Unionoida) of Australasia. Albury, Murray Darling Freshwater Research Centre.

Walker, K. F., Byrne, M., Hickey, C. W. & Roper, D. S. (2001). Freshwater Mussels (Hyriidae) of Australasia. Pp. 5-31 in G. Bauer & Wächtler, K. Ecology and Evolution of the Freshwater Mussels Unionoida. Ecological Studies. Berlin, Springer-Verlag.

Walker, K. F., Jones, H. A. &  Klunzinger, M. W. (2014). Bivalves in a bottleneck: taxonomy, phylogeography and conservation of freshwater mussels (Bivalvia: Unionoida) in Australasia. Hydrobiologia 735:61–79.