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  • José H. Leal

Shell of the Week: The Giant Date Mussel

Lithophaga antillarum(d’Orbigny, 1853) reaches 120 mm (about 4.7 inches). The shell is cylindrical, rounded anteriorly, inflated, with brownish, lustrous periostracum (outer shell layer). Giant Date Mussels bore into dead coral or limestone rock. Lithophaga antillarum has a broad distribution in the Gulf of Mexico and the tropical western Atlantic, from the Florida Keys to Brazil, but is not found locally in SW Florida. Given its life habits, this is a difficult species to observe or collect, as the date mussels grow into the limestone or coral rock, becoming "trapped" for life inside those structures.


The Giant Date Mussel, Lithophaga antillarum, from Marathon, Florida. Illustration by James F. Kelly.

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