, Volume 735, Issue 1, pp 61–79 | Cite as

Bivalves in a bottleneck: taxonomy, phylogeography and conservation of freshwater mussels (Bivalvia: Unionoida) in Australasia

  • Keith F. WalkerEmail author
  • Hugh A. Jones
  • Michael W. Klunzinger


The conservation biology of Australasian freshwater mussels is hindered by lack of a taxonomic framework that employs molecular data as a complement to shell characters, larval forms and internal anatomy. The fauna includes more than 32 known species (30+ Hyriidae, 2 Unionidae), but has not been revised for 55 years, despite minor amendments. The hyriids are relics of Gondwana, represented in Australia and New Guinea by the ancestral Velesunioninae and in Australia and New Zealand by the Hyriinae (Tribe Hyridellini). Many taxonomic and phylogeographic issues await resolution, including the relationships between Australasian and South American species, and between Australian and New Zealand species, and the status of species in New Guinea (including uncertain reports of Unionidae) and the Solomon Islands. Once these are clarified, it will be easier to identify threatened species and evaluate the conservation status of the fauna. At present, only seven taxa are named in the IUCN Red List or under national/state legislation, and these are not representative. Threatening processes include altered flow regimes, catchment disturbances, salinisation, pollution and invasive species. While the need for a taxonomic revision is paramount, progress in conservation may depend also upon involving the wider community.


Unionoida Hyriidae Unionidae Australia Papua New Guinea West Papua New Zealand Solomon Islands Sahul Taxonomy Biogeography Phylogeny Conservation Threatened species IUCN Red List EPBC Act Citizen science 



We are grateful for support from Professor Maria Byrne, University of Sydney, postgraduate supervisor to HAJ, and Associate Professor Alan Lymbery, Dr. Stephen Beatty and Dr. David Morgan, Murdoch University, supervisors to MWK. Our thanks also to Dr. Bruce Marshall, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, and Mr. Mark Fenwick, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, Wellington, New Zealand, for advice about Echyridella, to Dr. Manuel Lopes Lima, Universidade do Porto, Portugal, for inviting us to contribute to the symposium in absentia, and to two reviewers for helpful advice.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Keith F. Walker
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Hugh A. Jones
    • 4
    • 5
  • Michael W. Klunzinger
    • 2
    • 6
  1. 1.School of Earth & Environmental SciencesThe University of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.School of Veterinary & Life SciencesMurdoch UniversityMurdochAustralia
  3. 3.YankalillaAustralia
  4. 4.NSW Office of Environment and HeritageParramattaAustralia
  5. 5.Department of Anatomy & HistologyUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  6. 6.South East Regional Centre for Urban LandcareBeckenhamAustralia

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