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Donax (Plebidonax) deltoides (Family Donacidae)

Pipi, Goolwa Cockle, Eugarie


The Pipi ranges from New South Wales around southern Australia to South Australia. In eastern Australia it is called the Pipi, and in South Australia it is called the Goolwa Cockle. (NSW, VIC, TAS, SA)


The Pipi is a large bivalve that is strong, triangular, and wedge-shaped, with both valves equal in size and a mirror image of one another. It grows to 40 - 60 mm across. The sculpture on the shell consists of numerous very fine radial striations. The shell surface is covered with a horn-coloured epidermis.

The Pipi shell colour is bluish-white, tinted with cream, brown, olive, pink, yellow or rose. It is covered with a greenish-brown periostracum. The shell interior may be purple-mauve, dark violet or has a pink tinge.

Ecology/Way of Life:

The Pipi is found on sandy shores on surf beaches, between rocky headlands. It usually occurs 5 cm below the surface near low water level. If you look carefully, you can see that each pipi has two breathing siphons, one a little larger than the other. The larger siphon has a ring of papillae around its entrance to protect it from washed in sand. The smaller siphon is for the outgoing water.

At certain times of the year along some sandy beaches, when a wave rushes in, hundreds of small pipis are exposed. They tumble over and over in the incoming wave. As soon as the water halts, each one extends its tongue-like muscular foot and drives the elongated thin edge into the sand. Then by thickening the muscular foot underneath the sand surface, it pulls the shell upright and then drags the rest of the animal and the shell below the sand surface to safety. This whole action takes only a few seconds. Larger pipis seem to dig further down and only a few become exposed by the waves.

The Pipi is greatly valued by beach fishermen as bait. It is also collected commercially for human consumption, and in some areas they have been sold as "Butter Clams". There is a bag limit of 50 Pipis for each collector along New South Wales shores, while in South Australia, Goolwa Cockles should not be taken between June 1st to November 30th.

Interaction with Humans/Threats:

The two major threats to Pipis are over-collecting and recreational vehicles travelling along long sandy beaches near the low-water mark. Although Pipis appear to be very common on most sandy beaches, many are killed by fishermen for bait, as collected for food and crushed by 4WD vehicles.

Further Reading:

Bennett, I. (1987). W.J. Dakin's classic study: Australian Seashores. p.236-7, Angus & Robertson.

Davey, K. (1988). A Photographic Guide to Seashore Life of Australia. p.127, New Holland Press.

Edgar, G.J. (1997). Australian Marine Life: the plants and animals of temperate waters. p.303, Reed.

Macpherson, J.H. & Gabriel, C.J. (1962). Marine Molluscs of Victoria. p.370, Melbourne Univ. Press.

Marine Research Group of Victoria. (1984). Coastal Invertebrates of Victoria: an atlas of selected species. p.95, Museum of Victoria.

Shepherd, S.A. & Thomas, I.M. (1989). Marine Invertebrates of Southern Australia. pt. II. p.667, South Aust. Govt. Press.


Text, map & photograph by Keith Davey

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