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

A bivalve mollusc (Spisula elliptica)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.



A broadly oval shell, equilateral with fine concentric grooves and clear growth stages, which can reach up to 3 cm in length. The umbones are midline and turned inwards and slightly forwards. The shell is a dirty white with a brown or greeny brown periostracum. The fused cardinal teeth of the left valve form a distinctive A-shape that extends more than half way down the hinge plate. The lateral cardinal teeth have distinct serrations along their interlocking faces.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Common around most coasts of Britain and Ireland.

Global distribution

Extends from arctic Norway and Iceland south to the English Channel.


Common in mixed soft substrata offshore to approximately 100 m.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • The shell is broadly oval and up to 3 cm in length.
  • The valves have fine concentric grooves and clear growth stages.
  • The shell is dirty white with a greeny brown periostracum.
  • The cardinal teeth of the left valve form a distinctive A-shape.

Additional information

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Listed by

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Further information sources

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  1. Fish, J.D. & Fish, S., 1996. A student's guide to the seashore. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  2. Hayward, P., Nelson-Smith, T. & Shields, C. 1996. Collins pocket guide. Sea shore of Britain and northern Europe. London: HarperCollins.

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

  4. Howson, C.M. & Picton, B.E., 1997. The species directory of the marine fauna and flora of the British Isles and surrounding seas. Belfast: Ulster Museum. [Ulster Museum publication, no. 276.]

  5. JNCC (Joint Nature Conservation Committee), 1999. Marine Environment Resource Mapping And Information Database (MERMAID): Marine Nature Conservation Review Survey Database. [on-line]

  6. National Biodiversity Network (NBN) Atlas website. Available from:  Accessed 01 April 2017

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


This review can be cited as:

Ballerstedt, S. 2005. Spisula elliptica 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 25-09-2018]. Available from:

Last Updated: 17/10/2005