Biodiversity & Conservation

Limaria hians beds in tide-swept sublittoral muddy mixed sediment



Image Sue Scott - Gaping file shell nest on mixed muddy substratum, with nest opened and Limaria hians exposed. Image with ca 15 cm.
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Distribution map

SS.SMx.IMx.Lim recorded (dark blue bullet) and expected (light blue bullet) distribution in Britain and Ireland (see below)

  • EC_Habitats
  • UK_BAP

For a list of 2004 characterising species please see the JNCC website.

Species indicative of sensitivity

To assess the sensitivity of the biotope, the sensitivity of component species is reviewed. Those species that are considered to be particularly indicative of the sensitivity of the biotope, and for which research has been undertaken in detail are shown below (see selection criteria). The biology of other component species of the biotope is also taken into account wherever information is known to the researcher.

Species found especially in this biotope

  • Limaria hians
  • Kirchenpauria pinnata
  • Nemertesia antennina
  • Nemertesia ramosa
  • Plumularia setacea
  • Hyas araneus
  • Crossaster papposus
  • Ophiocomina nigra
  • Ophiothrix fragilis
Community Importance Species name Common Name
Key structural Limaria hians Gaping file shell


Loss of the Limaria hians bed would result in the loss of the associated community and destabilization of the sediment (see Minchin, 1995). The gaping file shell carpet supports a diverse assemblage of epifaunal and interstitial species that would be lost, together with the Limaria hians. Therefore, Limaria hians has been considered to be the key structural species in this review.

The other species in the community are widespread and characteristic of the wave sheltered but tide swept situations, in which the Limaria hians beds are found. Therefore, the dominant associated species vary with location and have little significant association with the bed itself. Reference has been made to Nemertesia ramosa to represent hydroids, Bugula species to represent bryozoans, Ciona intestinalis and Clavelina lepadiformis to represent ascidians, and Alcyonium digitatum to represent anthozoans, and Echinus esculentus and Asterias rubens to represent echinoderms occurring within the biotope.

Additional information

Beds of Limaria hians provide stable substrata in otherwise sedimentary habitats and support a diverse epifauna and infauna (Hall-Spencer & Moore, 2000b). The MNCR recorded 324 species within this biotope, although not all species were present in all records of the biotope. Hall-Spencer & Moore (2000b) reported 19 species of macroflora and 265 species of invertebrate macrofauna in only six Limaria hians nests from one site in Loch Fyne, Scotland.

This review can be cited as follows:

Tyler-Walters, H. 2003. Limaria hians beds in tide-swept sublittoral muddy mixed sediment. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Sub-programme [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 30/11/2015]. Available from: <>