Mud Whelks

Hercules Club Mud Whelk (Pyrazus ebeninus) (at right); Australian Mud Whelk (Batillaria australis) (at left) Hercules Club Mud Whelk (Pyrazus ebeninus) (at right); Australian Mud Whelk (Batillaria australis) (at left). Hercules Club Mud Whelk (Pyrazus ebeninus) living on Zostera grass beds, Wellington Point. Hercules Club Mud Whelk (Pyrazus ebeninus) living on Zostera grass beds, Wellington Point. The Hercules Club Mud Whelk (Pyrazus ebeninus, family Batillariidae) is one of the most abundant larger-sized marine snails in Queensland. Its range extends from Cairns in north Queensland (where it is rare) along the Queensland coast south to Tasmania. This species, which grows to 100 mm, lives in large colonies on intertidal mudflats (and often are referred to as ‘mud whelks’) especially in estuarine habitats occurs throughout Moreton Bay. We know from shell middens that Aboriginal people once ate it and in the early days of European settlement it was evidently sold commercially in places like Sydney. The species is said to be one of the few shells brought back by James Cook from Botany Bay. The Hercules Club Mud Whelk consumes organic detritus and algae on the surface of mud and therefore plays an important role in removing organic material from mudflats. A much smaller (50-60 mm) species, the Australian Mud Whelk (Batillaria australis) commonly occurs with the Hercules Club Mud Whelk, and the juvenile stages of the two species can often be confused. Both species are intermediate hosts in the lifecycle of parasitic worms that live in sea birds.

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