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

Spiny cockle (Acanthocardia aculeata)

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



Acanthocardia aculeata has a solid, broadly oval, inequilateral shell, measuring up to 11.5 cm in length. The shell forms into 20-22 prominent radiating ribs, each of which carries a row of sharp spines down its centre. There are concentric rings covering the surface of the shell, which are well defined between the ribs. The shell margin is crenulate, with grooves extending throughout the inside of the valves.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Recorded from Loch Ewe in north-west Scotland, off Scalby in north Yorkshire, in the vicinity of Brighton, in the Salcombe estuary and from the Isles of Scilly.

Global distribution

Recorded around the British Isles to the Mediterranean and northwest Africa.


Only found in sublittoral muddy sands.

Depth range

0-50 m

Identifying features

  • Shell broadly oval, equivalve, inequilateral shell, beaks in front of the mid-line.
  • Angular outline, with almost straight posterior margin.
  • The right valve has 2 anterior lateral teeth and a single posterior tooth.
  • The anterior cardinal tooth in the left valve is larger than the posterior.
  • The left valve anterior tooth is larger than the posterior tooth of the right valve.
  • Concentric grooves on the shell surface.

Additional information


Listed by

- none -

Further information sources

Search on:


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

  2. 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.]

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


  1. Conchological Society of Great Britain & Ireland, 2018. Mollusc (marine) data for Great Britain and Ireland. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-09-25.

  2. Fenwick, 2018. Aphotomarine. Occurrence dataset Accessed via on 2018-10-01

  3. Lancashire Environment Record Network, 2018. LERN Records. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-01.

  4. Merseyside BioBank., 2018. Merseyside BioBank (unverified). Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-01.

  5. National Trust, 2017. National Trust Species Records. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-01.

  6. NBN (National Biodiversity Network) Atlas. Available from:

  7. OBIS (Ocean Biogeographic Information System),  2021. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. Accessed: 2021-06-17


This review can be cited as:

Mayhew, E.M. 2004. Acanthocardia aculeata Spiny cockle. 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 17-06-2021]. Available from:

Last Updated: 26/03/2004