, Volume 418, Issue 1, pp 185-197

Reproduction and development of the freshwater clam Corbicula australis in southeast Australia

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The freshwater clam Corbicula australis is an important component of the macrobiota of the river systems of southeast Australia. Reproduction of two populations of this clam in the Nepean River at Douglas Park and Menangle was investigated to document the gametogenic cycle, larval morphology and to determine when they incubate embryos. C. australis is a simultaneous hermaphrodite and broods its young in the inner demibranchs. The gonads are ovotestes with oogenic and spermatogenic regions in each ascinus. The sperm are biflagellate, a condition unique in the Bivalvia to clonal corbiculids. Gametogenesis was continuous and did not exhibit a seasonal pattern. In contrast, spawning and incubation of embryos was limited to the warmer months of the year. Embryos were present in the gills from October to May. C. australis develops through a modified veliger larva with a vestigially ciliated velum which is not used for swimming or particle capture. The velum is covered by microvilli and it is suggested that the velar epithelium may be specialised for nutrient uptake in the marsupial environment. C. australis produces several clutches each year and the young are released as advanced juveniles with a well-developed foot. Reproductive output differed between the two populations. This was in part due to the larger size of the clams from Menangle and may also reflect the enhanced productivity at this site. The suite of life history traits exhibited by C. australis: hermaphroditism, potential for self-fertilization/androgenesis, brooding progeny to the crawl-away juvenile stage and a high reproductive output, provide for rapid colonization and population growth in this clam which typically inhabits disturbance prone sandy lotic habitats.