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Telescopium telescopium (Family Potamididae)

Telescope-shell Creeper

Distribution:

The Telescope-shell Creeper has an Indo-West Pacific distribution. Across tropical Australian it ranges from Exmouth Gulf, WA, across the NT to central Qld (WA, NT, QLD).

Features:

The Telescope-shell Creeper has a very distinctive, large, telescope-shaped shell. It grows to 65-110 mm in length. Its shell is large and conical in shape, with a broad and flat base. The shell sides are straight. The shell sculpture consists of numerous flat-sided whorls and spiral grooves. The shell base has concentric cords, and a deep channel around a short, twisted, columellar pillar. The anterior siphonal canal is short. The aperture is oval in shape, with a thin outer lip that is not flared. The aperture rim is mostly smooth except for some weak striations towards the shell's front (anterior). The tight-fitting operculum is made up of horn-like material.

The exterior of the shell is brown, with a thin, white, central line on each whorl. The shell interior is brown, with a yellow columella.

Ecology/Way of Life:

The Telescope-shell Creeper is an abundant, gregarious, spiral mollusc that occurs on northern Australian estuarine mudflats. It is abundant on muddy shores up to high tide level. The mollusc can readily detect movement and will quickly retreat into its protective shell, pulling the operculum shut to protect itself from predators. It can be exposed to the drying sun for long periods when the broad range tide is out. Some shores where it is commonly found have a 5-7 metre tidal range. When the tide is out it can be exposed for many hours during the hot summer months. It must be highly adapted to avoid being dried out. It is a herbivorous and detrital feeder. Female Telescope-shell Creepers lay gelatinous egg-strings that hatch into a planktonic larval stage.

This species is the last remaining survivor of a genus that had several fossil species that have been found in rocks of the Middle to Late Tertiary Period of the Cenozoic Era, that occurred 65.0 - 1.64 Million Years ago.

Interaction with Humans/Threats:

The Telescope-shell Creeper is widespread and abundant across Australian tropical mudflat shores. It does not appear to be under threat from human activities.

Other Comments:

Telescopium telescopium, Linnaeus, 1758. Telescopium comes from two Greek words, tele, meaning far, and skopeein, to see. In this case it is more likely that the word has been latinised and is used to mean telescopic, or telescopiform, being arranged like the joints of a spy-glass.

Further Reading:

Coleman, N. (1975) What Shell is That? P.83, Lansdowne Press.

Davey, K. (1998) A Photographic Guide to Seashore Life of Australia. p.106, New Holland Press, Sydney.

Wilson, B. (1993 ) Australian Marine Shells. Prosobranch Gastropods. V.1. p.133. Odyssey Publishing.

Wilson, B. R. & Gillett, K. (1979). A Field Guide to Australian Shells: Prosobranch p.56, Gastropods. Reed.

Acknowledgments:

Text, map & photograph by Keith Davey.

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