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Corbicula Mühlfeld, 1811

Diagnostic features

Small to medium sized relatively thick shelled bivalves, ovate to almost circular in outline. Inside of valves white to purplish, exterior white to purplish with a yellow to olive periostracum. Sculptured with well developed regular concentric growth ridges on the exterior surface. Hinge teeth strong with up to three cardinal teeth in each valve which may be bifid. Lateral teeth serrated. The pallial line is entire and the shell margins smooth. Strong external ligament posterior to umbones; no lunule or escutcheon.

Eulamellibranch gills with both demibranchs; generally with a strong, compressed, tongue shaped foot lacking a byssal groove. Two relatively short posterior siphons. Papillae on mantle edges which are not fused ventrally.


Class Bivalvia

Subclass Heteroconchia

Superorder Heterodonta

Order Cardiida

Superfamily Cyrenoidea

Family Cyrenidae

Genus Corbicula Mühlfeld, 1811

Type species: Tellina fluminalis O. F. Müller, 1774 (by subsequent designation)

Original reference: Megerle von Mühlfeldt J. C. (1811). Entwurf eines neuen System's der Schalthiergehäuse. Sitzungsberichte der Gesellschaft Naturforschender Freunde zu Berlin 5: 38-72.

Synonyms: Cyrena Lamarck, 1818; Corbiculina Dall, 1903

Biology and ecology

Mainly in streams, rivers, dams, irrigation channels, pipelines and lakes. Living in shallow water. Infaunal, burrowing in sand and mud.  Suspension feeders. Dioecious, and brood young (ovoviparous) in gill pouches. Have the potential to self-fertilise, and reproduce rapidly.Life span relatively short: 3 – 5 years. Spawning and incubation of embryos limited to the warmer months of the year. C. australis produces several clutches each year and the young are released as advanced juveniles with a well-developed foot. Some lineages clonal.


In Australia, Corbicula is found throughout much of the Australian mainland. Other species are widely distributed in Asia, Eurasia, Africa and the Middle East. A few species are invasive in Europe and North America.


There are many names in the literature for the Australian species of this subgenus which reflect the morphological variability of the species. Only one native Australian species is recognised here, although this concept requires testing.

Further reading

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

Byrne, M., Phelps, H., Church, T., Adair, V., Selvakumaraswamy, P. & Potts, J. (2000). Reproduction and development of the freshwater clam Corbicula australis in southeast Australia. Hydrobiologia 418: 185-197.

Huber, M., Langleit, A. & Kreipl, K. (2015). Compendium of Bivalves 2. A Full-Color Guide to the Remaining Seven Families. A Systematic Listing of 8,500 Bivalve Species and 10,500 Synonyms. Hackenheim, Germany, ConchBooks.

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

Ng, T.H., Tan, S.K., Wong, W.H., Meier, R., Chan, S-Y., Tan, H.H. and Yeo, D.C.J. 2016. Molluscs for Sale: Assessment of Freshwater Gastropods and Bivalves in the Ornamental Pet Trade. PLOS One. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0161130.

Korniushin, A. V. & Glaubrecht, M. (2003). Novel reproductive modes in freshwater clams: brooding and larval morphology in Southeast Asian taxa of Corbicula (Mollusca, Bivalvia, Corbiculidae). Acta Zoologica 84: 293-315.

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

Smith, B. J. (1992). Non-marine Mollusca. Pp. i-xii, 1-408 in W. W. K. Houston. Zoological Catalogue of Australia, 8. Canberra, Australian Government Publishing Service.

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

Woolford, T. (1984). A fouling bivalve, Corbiculina australis (Deshayes, 1830), in the Renmark irrigation pipelines: its biology and control options for the Renmark Irrigation Trust. Unpublished Honours Thesis. Zoology Department, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia.