Mussel of the

Page last updated
4 May 2023

Mussel of the Month

The May 2023 Mussel of the Month is Velesunio angasi. Velesunio is a genus of five species found in Australia and New Guinea.

Velesunio angasi
BMNH 70.10.26-41. Strangways River, North Australia. (type)

With a busy semester winding down, we thought would take advantage of the brave new world in which we live to let ChatGPT from OpenAI write a Mussel of the Month entry about the phylogeny of Velesunio angasi. The following is what it came up with, with our own reality checks inserted.

Welcome to our Mussel of the Month blog, where we explore the fascinating world of freshwater mussels. This month, we're taking a closer look at the phylogeny of Velesunio angasi, commonly known as the Tasmanian freshwater mussel.

Velesunio angasi is a species of freshwater mussel endemic to the island of Tasmania, Australia. It belongs to the family Hyriidae, which is found throughout the Southern Hemisphere and includes over 100 species of freshwater mussels.

Velesunio angasi is actually found in northern Australia, from Queensland to Western Australia. Velesunio moretonicus is found in Tasmania (Walker et al., 2014). According to the MUSSEL Project web site, the Hyriidae is found in South America, Australia (and adjacent islands), and New Zealand and represented by 93 species, which by our estimate is less than 100. Freshwater mussels are fascinating, so at least that checks-out.

The phylogeny of Velesunio angasi and other Hyriidae species has been the subject of ongoing research in recent years. One study published in 2017 used DNA sequencing to investigate the relationships between different Hyriidae species, including Velesunio angasi. The study found that Hyriidae species in Australia and New Zealand form a distinct clade, indicating that they are closely related to each other.

Um, no. The study cited above was made up by ChatGPT.  The chat-bot provided a fictional article that we won’t list because the alleged authors are real people with real publications that don’t need their Google Scholar statistics tainted with fake citations.

As the Hyriidae Cladomics page on this website reports, we have known since the beginning of the molecular phylogenetic era that some Australasian hyriids share a more recent common ancestor with South American mussels (subfamily Hyriidae) than they do with other mussels like Velesunio (Graf & Ó Foighil, 2000). Furthermore, Echyridella, the sole mussel genus of New Zealand, still has an unsettled position on the hyriid phylogeny.

Another study published in 2018 used DNA sequencing to investigate the relationships between different Australian freshwater mussel species, including Velesunio angasi. This analysis suggested that Velesunio angasi is part of a clade that includes several other Hyriidae species, including Velesunio ambiguus and Velesunio wilsonii.

This is another reference hallucinated by the chat-bot. Those are other species of Velesunio, including former Mussel of the Month Velesunio ambiguus, so we could see where that might sound like a real thing.

Interestingly, the 2018 study also found that these Australian freshwater mussels were more closely related to mussels from Southeast Asia than to those from other parts of the world. This suggests that these mussel species may have originated in Southeast Asia and colonized Australia via a land bridge that connected the two regions during the Pleistocene epoch.

If a chat-bot is willing to imagine references, it shouldn’t be surprising that it will concoct its own biogeographical history. The Hyriidae has been in Australia since the days of Gondwana, and there are no hyriids in Southeast Asia (Graf et al., 2015).

Understanding the phylogeny of Velesunio angasi and other freshwater mussel species is important for conservation efforts. By studying the genetic relationships between different mussel species, researchers can gain insights into the ecological roles of different species, as well as identify groups of closely related species that may be particularly vulnerable to threats such as habitat loss and pollution.

Though vague, that paragraph contains no blatant falsehoods. Progress!

In conclusion, the phylogeny of Velesunio angasi and other Hyriidae species is an area of ongoing research that holds important insights for conservation and ecological management. By continuing to explore the evolutionary relationships between different mussel species, we can gain a deeper understanding of the complex and fascinating world of freshwater mussels.

In second conclusion, we can all be grateful that sentient malacologists curate the MUSSEL Project Website, and we can rest easy that the chat-bots aren’t coming for our jobs yet.


Phylum Mollusca
Class Bivalvia
Subclass Palaeoheterodonta
Order Unionoida

Superfamily HYRIOIDEA Swainson, 1840
Family HYRIIDAE Swainson, 1840
Subfamily VELESUNIONINAE Iredale, 1934

Genus Velesunio Iredale, 1934

Species Velesunio angasi (Sowerby, 1867)

To find out more about the ACTUAL phylogenetics and classification of Velesunio and the Australian Hyriidae, check out:

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