Freshwater shells

by Helmut Nisters, Innsbruck, Austria

An illustrated look at some of the smaller and larger shells that can be found
in freshwater habitats.


Shells found in freshwater habitats are members of two major classes i.e. Gastropoda (gastropods) and Bivalvia (bivalves). They occur in both calmer waters (e.g. ponds, small lakes, still waters near river and stream banks) and running waters (brooks, small and larger rivers, in breaker zones of lakes). Some species e.g. Galba truncatula (Fam. Lymnaeidae) you can even find on moist and wet rocks.

The extent of a habitat is less important than the quality of preferred feeding areas. Bivalves for example prefer a habitat with mud. Larger waters are richer in species, as smaller ones don't always survive for a long time.

A selection of shells collected from freshwater habitats are shown below.

Comments to the author Helmut Nisters are welcomed. Other contact details in Appendix.


Images of some freshwater shells.

(The size given is the length or diameter of a typical specimen.)

CLASS: Gastropoda (gastropods)

Family: Hydrobiidae

Graziana lacheineri

Bythinella austriaca


Family: Planorbidae
Note that side and aperture views may not be to the same scale as the dorsal and ventral views.

Ancylus fluviatilis

Planorbis planorbis

Anisus vortex

Bathyomphalus contortus

Gyraulus acronicus

Segmentina nitida


Family: Lymnaeidae

Galba truncatula

Stagnicola corvus

Radix peregra

Radix ovata


Other Gastropod families

Family: Physidae
Aplexa hynorum

Family: Valvatidae
Valvata piscinalis piscinalis

Family: Viviparidae
Viviparus contectus

Family: Bithyniidae
Bithynia tentaculata tentaculata


CLASS: Bivalvia (bivalves)

Family: Sphaeridae
Pisidium casertanum


Helmut Nisters contact details (work and home).

Natural History Department of the Tiroler Landesmuseum Ferdinandeum Innsbruck,
Malacological Collection,
Feldstr. 11a,
A-6020 Innsbruck, Austria, Europe.
Phone: 0043 512 58 72 86 37.
Helmut Nisters
Franz-Fischer-Str. 46
A-6020 Innsbruck, Austria, Europe
Phone and Fax: 0043 512 57 32 14

Digital image capture details: Images taken by David Walker of shells supplied and identified by Helmut Nisters. Shell images taken with Panasonic CL350 video camera with 50mm Nikon SLR lens and extension tubes. Digital video stills captured by Snappy 2.0, image processing with Picture Publisher v7.0.

Previous Micscape articles by Helmut Nisters with extensive illustrations are as follows.

The Castle of Ambras, Innsbruck, Austria which describes the shells that can be found in the castle grounds.

'The 'Rockers and Wallers' - shells that can be found in rocky habitats and living on walls.


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Published in the September 1999 edition of Micscape Magazine.


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