Molluscs are an extraordinarily diverse group of animals found in virtually every habitat in both aquatic and terrestrial environments. In freshwater, they commonly form a crucial component of the fauna and play important ecological roles. In some cases, molluscs living in freshwater are also of economic, veterinary or medical significance.
Australian freshwater molluscs, the focus of this resource, are found in wide range of natural and man-made habitats, occupying rivers, streams, lakes, billabongs, ponds, dams, irrigation channels, and even isolated desert springs. Furthermore, the freshwater molluscs of Australia vary greatly in size, shape, biology and evolutionary history, and more than 99% of the native species occur nowhere else. Many of these are minute in size, commonly with highly restricted geographical distributions, and with several of significant conservation concern. More than 400 native described species occur here, and we know of more than 100 that are yet to be formally described. Undescribed species are not included in this resource, but most of these are unlikely to be encountered by the great majority of users.
Additionally, the resource includes a number of invasive species, often found in rural and urban areas where they commonly displace native fauna. Furthermore, some freshwater molluscs are hosts of parasites that pose a health risk to livestock and potentially to humans, whereas others are agricultural pests that may cause economic and ecological damage where they occur. We have also included several species that are invasive elsewhere, and could cause significant harm in Australia if introduced.
It is important to emphasise that not all inland aquatic habitats are freshwater (i.e. with no appreciable salinity). Many inland rivers, billabongs and other aquatic environments can be slightly to moderately saline, whereas some other inland water bodies - such as salt lakes - are highly saline. Molluscs from all inland water bodies are included in this interactive resource, as are some from the upper reaches of estuaries which are fresh for part of the year, but range from slightly brackish to saline in times of low rainfall. The estuarine species included here are those that would normally occupy freshwater on a seasonal basis (such as in the monsoon season). However, we advise that the coverage of these taxa is not comprehensive.
There are two main components to this resource. One is an interactive key, covering both gastropods and bivalves, which is aimed at facilitating identification of this diverse fauna down to species level. The second is a comprehensive database of Fact Sheets, which are provided for all species, and for genera with two or more species represented in Australian freshwater environments. These Fact Sheets contain information on biology, ecology, distribution and classification, as well as taxonomic details and references. Fact Sheets for families are not provided in this version of the key.
The making of this resource was made possible thanks to generous financial support provided by the Australian Museum Foundation, Australian Biological Resources Study (ABRS), BushBlitz, Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (Biosecurity division), Owen Griffiths and the Malacological Society of Australasia.
This key had its genesis many years ago when it was originally set up in DELTA™, but remained unfinished largely because that program was not fully compatible with modern operating systems. It was moved to Lucid in February 2015.
In particular, we thank Matt Taylor for his generous help with the programs Lucid™ and Fact Sheet Fusion™ and Alison Miller, Janet Waterhouse, Mandy Reid, Don Colgan, Ian Loch, Des Beechey, Francesco Criscione and Frank Köhler of the Australian Museum for their input and for assistance with the Australian Museum collections and collection database. Josh Studdart assisted with an early phase of the project, including producing some of the photographs used, and Sue Lindsay has kindly provided assistance in the microscopy laboratory at the Australian Museum. We would also like to thank Jackie McIver (and family) and Julie Ponder for their support and constructive feedback. Images of living animals for use in the key have been made available to us by Hugh Jones and John Walker, and Ashley Miskelly assisted with photography of living molluscs. Emilio Rodriguez is also acknowledged for his assistance with photography.
Several individuals provided valuable feedback with an early test version of the key. In particular, we thank Karen Richards, Adam Broadley, Michael Klunzinger and Hugh Jones. We would also like to thank Renee Rossini, Greg McDonald, Cecil Ellis and Jayne Hanford for constructive comments.