Research project: Hidden gastropod diversity in tropical Australian estuaries: A systematic revision of Australian Stenothyridae, Iravadiidae and Calopiidae


Start date:

Museum investigators

Funded by

  • Australian Biological Resources Study (ABRS) National Taxonomy Research Grant Program


This project explores the diversity of three families of tiny, estuarine microgastropod: the Stenothyridae, Iravadiidae and Calopiidae. Collectively, these families contain the majority of undescribed molluscan taxa in tropical and subtropical Australian estuarine habitats. The least known of these three families, the Stenothyridae, have a wide Indo-West Pacific distribution, but in Australia are found only in tropical regions (except for one species which appears to be advancing southwards along the NSW coast). They inhabit slow-flowing tidal estuaries, pools in mangrove forests, coastal lagoons and brackish creeks. The family Iravadiidae is found throughout Australasia and is predominantly tropical, with some temperate taxa. They are also mainly estuarine, occurring in mangrove forests, although several species inhabit sheltered coastal marine areas or anoxic environments beneath submerged boulders or wood. The Calopiidae is endemic to Australia, and is a very abundant component of seagrass ecosystems. The four known species display high morphological variability, and will be additionally investigated using molecular techniques.

Key questions which will be addressed by this research are: 

  1. Which species and genus-group taxa of Stenothyridae, Iravadiidae and Calopiidae occur in tropical and subtropical Australia, using morphological and molecular data?
  2. What are the diagnostic anatomical and conchological differences between the species and genera?
  3. What habitats do these animals use, and in what ways is their anatomy specially adapted?
  4. How are the species related and what changes have they undergone during their evolution?
  5. Does the phylogenetic and population-level genetic structure of these animals reflect geographic factors such as river-system separation?


Rosemary Golding , Scientific Officer
Dr Winston Ponder , Senior Fellow
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