Mussel of the

Page last updated
2 April 2004

Mussel of the Month

The April 2004 Mussel of the Month is Pseudospatha tanganyicensis. Pseudospatha is a monotypic genus endemic to Lake Tanganyika in Central Africa.

Pseudospatha tanganyicensis
FMNH 6544. Lake Tanganyika, Africa. P.P. Carpenter Collection.

Pseudospatha has been a rather enigmatic mussel over the last century or so. The French mussel-overnamer Bourguignat originally called this genus Burtonia, after the explorer Sir Richard Burton, and described several species. Most authorities now agree that there is really only one species.

Unfortunately, the name Burtonia didn't work out, and Simpson gave Pseudospatha its current name. Malacologists since have been in disagreement over what family this mussel belongs to. Pilsbry & Bequaert (1927) put it in Hyriidae; Haas (1969) said it was an iridinid (= Mutelidae). It turns out, based on the anatomical studies of Pain & Woodward (1968), that P. tanganyicensis is a unionid — it has a supra-anal aperture!


Phylum Mollusca
Class Bivalvia
Subclass Palaeoheterodonta
Order Unionoida

Superfamily Unionoidea Rafinesque, 1820

Family Unionidae s.s.
Subfamily Pseudospathinae Leloup, 1950

Genus Pseudospatha Simpson, 1900

Species Pseudospatha tanganyicensis (E.A. Smith, 1880)

References Cited:


  • Pilsbry, H.A. & J. Bequaert. 1927. The Aquatic Mollusks of the Belgian Congo, with a geographical and ecological account of Congo malacology. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 53: 69-602 + 68 plates.
  • Pain, T. & F.R. Woodward. 1968. A monograph of the African bivalves of the genera Brazzaea Bourguignat, Mweruella Haas, Prisodontopsis Tomlin and Pseudospatha Simpson. Revue de Zoologie et de Botanique Africaines 77(1-2): 190-220.
  • Haas, F. 1969. Superfamilia Unionacea. Das Tierreich (Berlin) 88: 663 pp.
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