General Description

Body long, soft and pale. Shells at front are tiny and round, with fine teeth used to bore into wood. The whole animals is hidden in a burrow inside wood, with only a tiny entrance hole visible. Two small paddle-like structures are situated at the tail end, used to plug the entrance to the burrow. Length up to 30 cm.


Shipworms are unusual varieties of marine clam that have evolved to bore into and eat wood in the marine environment. They settle onto wood as tiny larvae and grow longer as they bore inside. They digest the wood using symbiotic bacteria, rather like termites do. Shipworms leave little outside trace of their activities but small entrance holes. Only upon breaking open the wood can you see the extent of their boring. For this reason, they can cause significant damage to wooden boat hulls, docks and other wooden structures. Shipworms are hardy and can survive a range of different temperatures and salinities and in some areas, such as the Gippsland Lakes, have adapted to low salinity conditions and can therefore attack wooden structures in areas that are normally thought to be safe from shipworm attack.


Southern Australia.


Marine; coastal bays boring in submerged timber.

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