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Glyptophysa (Glyptophysa) novaehollandica  (Bowdich, 1822)


This genus is in need of revision, as the species concepts we have used have not been rigorously tested. Unpublished molecular data indicate that the species units we are here using appear to be justified, however they are not accompanied by clear-cut morphological characters that allow separation based on shell characters alone. As the species units appear to be overall concordant with state boundaries, we have used these boundaries to aid delimiting species. This situation is not ideal, and can only be resolved by additional molecular and morphological studies involving dense sampling.

Diagnostic features

The taxonomy of Glyptophysa is very poorly understood. This is one of several species of relatively smooth shelled Glyptophysa that are variable in shape and in periostracal development (periostracal hairs and spirals can be present), even within a single population. A large number of species-group names are available and it is quite possible that more species occur in Australia. At present we are recognising only three, in addition to G. aliciae.

This species is one of three that we are somewhat tentatively recognising (see statement under Notes)  that were previsously referred to as Glyptophysa gibbosa (now treated as a synomym of G. novaehollandica)These taxa are in need of revision, as the species concepts we have used have not been rigorously tested.


Glyptophysa (Glyptophysa) novaehollandica  (Bowdich, 1822)

Common name: Pouched snail

Class Gastropoda

Infraclass Heterobranchia

Megaorder Hygrophila

Order Lymnaeida

Superfamily Planorboidea

Family Planorbidae

Subfamily: Miratestinae

Genus Glyptophysa Crosse, 1872

Subgenus Glyptophysa

Original name: Physa novaehollandica Bowdich, 1822 (as Physa n.hollandica). Bowdich, T. E. (1822). Elements of Conchology Pt. 1. Paris.

Type locality: Assumed to be New Holland (= Australia), based on the name.

SynonymsPhysa novaehollandiae Lesson, 1831; Physa novaehollandiae Gray, 1833; Physa ludwigii Küster, 1844; Physa gibbosa Gould, 1846; Physa pectorosa Conrad, 1850;  Physa australiana Conrad, 1850; ?Physa circumlineata Morelet, 1857; Physa concinna A. Adams & Angas, 1864; Physa olivacea A. Adams & Angas, 1864; Physa badia A. Adams & Angas, 1864; Physa aciculata Sowerby, 1873;  Physa dispar Sowerby, 1873; Physa pyramidata Sowerby, 1873; Physa tenuistriata Sowerby, 1873;  Physa subundata Sowerby, 1873; Aplexa adamsiana Tapparone-Canefri 1874; Physa duplicata G. B. Sowerby, 1874;  Physa aperta Sowerby, 1874; Physa nitida Sowerby, 1874; Physa attenuata Sowerby, 1874; Physa pinguis Sowerby, 1874; Physa brunniensis Sowerby, 1874; Physa eburnea Sowerby, 1874; Physa mamillata Sowerby, 1874; Physa nitida Sowerby, 1874; Physa texturata Sowerby, 1874; Physa bullata Sowerby, 1874; Physa kershawi Tenison Woods, 1878; Physa huonensis Tenison Woods, 1876; Physa legrandi Tenison Woods, 1876; Physa tasmanica Tenison Woods, 1876; Physa huonicola Tenison Woods, 1876; Physa tasmanicola Tenison Woods, 1876; Physa ciliata Tenison Woods, 1876; Physa yarraensis Tenison Woods, 1878; Physa diemenensis Johnston, 1879; Physa fumiformis Nelson and Taylor, 1879; Physa beddomei Nelson & Taylor, 1879;  Physa brisbanica Nelson & Taylor, 1879; Aplexa turrita Tate, 1881; Physa exarata Smith, 1882; Physa gracilenta Smith, 1882;  Physa etheridgei Smith, 1882; Physa queenslandica Smith, 1882; Physa lessoni Smith, 1882; Physa grayi Smith, 1882; Physa smithi Clessin, 1885; Physa kreffti  Clessin, 1886; Physa multispirata Clessin, 1886;  Physa conica Clessin, 1886;  Physa lincolnensis Clessin, 1886; Physa waterhousei Clessin, 1886; Physa producta Smith, 1882; Physa tortuosa Clessin, 1886. Physa arachnoidea Tenison Woods, 1878; Isidora gibbosa brevispira Odhner, 1917; Bullinus tenuistriatus confluens Hedley, 1917; Amerianna subacuta Cotton & Beasley, 1941;  Tasmadora sorellensis Cotton, 1943; Lenameria calda  Iredale, 1944; Lenameria digressa  Iredale, 1944; Lenameria epicropa  Iredale, 1944; Lenameria formalis Iredale, 1944; Lenameria placata  Iredale, 1944; Lenameria pretena  Iredale, 1944; Lenameria renola  Iredale, 1943; Mutalena modica Iredale, 1944; Mutalena raperta Iredale, 1944.

State of taxonomy

The taxonomy of Glyptophysa is very poorly understood. A large number of species-group names are available and it is quite possible that more species occur in Australia.

This species is one of three that we are somewhat tentatively recognising (see statement under Notes) that were previously referred to as Glyptophysa gibbosa (now treated as a synonym of G. novaehollandica). These taxa are in need of revision, as the species concepts we have used have not been rigorously tested.

Biology and ecology

On water weeds, wood, and similar substrates, in ponds, billabongs, swamps, and sluggish streams and rivers. Feeds on algae and detritus. Egg mass typically a bean(kidney)-shaped jelly strip containing many small eggs. Development direct.


This species, as tentatively recognised, is found in northern, central, eastern and south-eastern Australia and Tasmania.


This genus is similar to the common introduced Physella (Physidae) in that both have similar-shaped, sinistral shells. Glyptophysa (Glyptophysa)can be distinguished by the shell not being completely smooth (as it is in Physella), Glyptophysa (Glyptophysa) often having some periostracal ornament and microscopic wrinkles or spiral ridges in the case of Glyptophysa (Glyptophysa) aliciae. Physella has a mottled mantle which can usually be seen through the semi- transparent shell whereas Glyptophysa (Glyptophysa) has a uniformly dark-coloured mantle. The animal of Physella has digitations (finger-like processes) along the mantle edge against the columella whereas this is smooth in Glyptophysa. (Glyptophysa). Physella lacks a false gill (pseudobranch) which is present in Glyptophysa (Glyptophysa) and all planorbids. The animal of Glyptophysa (Glyptophysa), if damaged when alive, has red-coloured blood whereas Physella does not produce coloured blood.

Glyptophysa differs from the otherwise similar genus Isidorella in the penial apparatus having a penial stylet and an accessory flagellum. Isidorella lacks a stylet and an accessory structure but the penis has two lobes.

This species was previously known as Glyptophysa gibbosa, but G. novaehollandica is an earlier name.

Further reading

Hubendick, B. (1955). Phylogeny of the Planorbidae. Transactions of the Zoological Society of London 28: 453-542.

Shea, M. (1995). Freshwater molluscs of Sydney. Australian Shell News 88: 4-6.

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.

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

Walker, J. C. (1988). Classification of Australian buliniform planorbids (Mollusca: Pulmonata). Records of the Australian Museum 40: 61-89.

Willan, E. C. & Kessner, V. (2021). A conspectus of the freshwater molluscs of the Daly River catchment, Northern Territory. Northern Territory Naturalist 30: 108-137.