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

Abstract

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.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Graf & Cummings (2006, 2007) consider the South American Acostaea rivolii as an etheriid, whereas Bogan and colleagues (Bogan & Hoeh, 2000; Bogan & Roe, 2008; Hoeh et al., 2009) regard it as a mycetopodid. This point determines whether or not Etherioidea can be said to occur in South America.

  2. 2.

    As noted, there is doubt over inclusion of Etheriidae in the South American fauna.

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Acknowledgments

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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Correspondence to Keith F. Walker.

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Guest editors: Manuel P. M. Lopes-Lima, Ronaldo G. Sousa, Simone G. P. Varandas, Elsa M. B. Froufe & Amílcar A. T. Teixeira / Biology and Conservation of Freshwater Bivalves

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Walker, K.F., Jones, H.A. & Klunzinger, M.W. Bivalves in a bottleneck: taxonomy, phylogeography and conservation of freshwater mussels (Bivalvia: Unionoida) in Australasia. Hydrobiologia 735, 61–79 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-013-1522-9

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Keywords

  • 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