information on the biology of species and the ecology of habitats found around the coasts and seas of the British Isles

A bivalve mollusc (Abra nitida)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.
Only coastal and marine records shown



Abra nitida has an oval-shaped shell of two valves (halves) that are of the same shape and size and up to 2 cm in length and 1.2 cm in height. The valves are asymmetrical with the tip of the valves (beak) positioned behind the dorso-ventral mid-line and pointing inwards towards the valves and to the posterior. The shell is brittle to the touch and the surface bears microscopic concentric lines. The external shell surface is a glossy, pearly white, sometimes translucent and is scattered with minute flecks. The interior surface of the hinge is marked with a spoon-shaped pit (chondrophore) near the beak. An indentation is present towards the posterior of the inner hinge as well as adductor muscle scars that are longer and thinner in the anterior region than in the posterior region. The interior of each valve is glossy and translucent in appearance. The right valve bears 2 small, teeth projecting from the hinge and 2 more teeth that are either side of the hinge whereas the left valve bears 1 tooth from the hinge and 2 weaker teeth, again either side of the hinge. The body is simple, bearing a wedge-shaped foot and two very long siphons.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Abra nitida is widespread on the coasts of Britain but less common on the western coast of Ireland.

Global distribution



Abra nitida inhabits self-made burrows in mud, sandy mud, silty sand and muddy gravel in the sublittoral zone to 183 metres.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Oval-shaped shell consisting of two identically sized and shaped valves.
  • Valves asymmetrical.
  • Tip of valves point inwards towards the posterior and lies is behind the dorso-ventral mid-line.
  • Shell up to 2 cm in length and 1.2 cm in height.
  • Shell bears microscopic concentric lines.
  • Shell is usually coloured a glossy, pearly white but may be translucent.
  • Right valve with two teeth projecting from hinge, left valve with one tooth.
  • Body bears two very long siphons.

Additional information

Abra nitida is similar to both Abra alba, that is larger and less elongate, and Abra prismatica, that is not quite as oval. Abra nitida mainly feeds on detritus.

Listed by

- none -

Further information sources

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  1. Christensen, J.M., 1980. Seashells. Bivalves of the British and Northern European Seas. Revised and adapted by Peter S. Dance. Hamondsworth: Penguin Books Ltd.

  2. Gibson, R., Hextall, B. & Rogers, A., 2001. Photographic guide to the sea and seashore life of Britain and north-west Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  3. Hayward, P.J. & Ryland, J.S. (ed.) 1995b. Handbook of the marine fauna of North-West Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  4. MBA (Marine Biological Association), 1957. Plymouth Marine Fauna. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom.

  5. Tebble, N., 1976. British Bivalve Seashells. A Handbook for Identification, 2nd ed. Edinburgh: British Museum (Natural History), Her Majesty's Stationary Office.

  6. Zenetos, A., 1996. The marine Bivalvia (Mollusca) of Greece. Athens: National Centre for Marine Research.

  7. Conchological Society of Great Britain & Ireland, 2017. Mollusc (marine) data for Great Britain and Ireland. Occurrence dataset accessed via on 2018-07-24.


This review can be cited as:

Richards, S. 2007. Abra nitida A bivalve mollusc. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. (eds) Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 15-08-2018]. Available from:

Last Updated: 01/08/2007

Tags: Bivalve Mollusc