Lithophaga lithophaga

Lithophaga lithophaga
Temporal range: Miocene - Recent
Lithophaga lithophaga boring into marine rocks
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Mollusca
Class: Bivalvia
Subclass: Pteriomorphia
Order: Mytiloida
Family: Mytilidae
Genus: Lithophaga
Species: L. lithophaga
Binomial name
Lithophaga lithophaga
(Linnaeus, 1758) [1]

Lithophaga lithophaga, also known as date shell or date mussel,[2] is a species of Bivalvia belonging to the family Mytilidae.

Fossil record

Fossils of Lithophaga lithophaga are found in marine strata from the Miocene until the Quaternary (age range: from 15.97 to 0.0 million years ago).[3]


This species can be found in northeast Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea.[4] They are found on the Adriatic coast of Croatia and Montenegro under the name prstaci.[5]

Habitat and biology

A shell of Lithophaga lithophaga

These bivalves live mainly in the area battered by the waves, but they can reach depths of 125 to 200 m. [6] They bore into marine rocks, producing a boring called Gastrochaenolites. Their growth is very slow, and to reach the 5 cm length, they requires 15 to 35 years. They feed on plankton, algae and debris by filtering them from the water. They reach the sexual maturity after about two years. The number of eggs that are released in a season reach about 120,000 to about 4.5 million. The fertilization takes place in the open water. [7]


Shells of Lithophaga lithophaga can reach a length of about 8.5 centimetres (3.3 in). They are yellowish or brownish, almost cylindrical, rounded at both ends. The interior is whitish iridescent purple with a pink tinge. These shells are relatively thin. The surface is nearly smooth, covered with growth lines, which sometimes can be quite rough.

Human culture

Historically these shells are considered a delicacy, cooked and served in a broth of white wine, garlic and parsley.

Commercial collection

Several governments have restricted the collection of these shells or even made it wholly illegal, in order to protect the rocks on which they are found. The extraction of the shells from the rocks leads to desertification of the coast. These countries include Croatia,[8] Italy,[4] Slovenia,[9] France,[10] Greece,[4] Montenegro,[4] and others, including participants in the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention)[11] and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).[2][9] As of 2004, its population distributed over the Turkish coastline is not considered to be under threat.[4]


  1. Serge Gofas (2010). P. Bouchet, S. Gofas & G. Rosenberg, eds. "Lithophaga lithophaga (Linnaeus, 1758)". World Marine Mollusca database. World Register of Marine Species. Retrieved January 20, 2012.
  2. 1 2 "Lithophaga lithophaga Identification Sheet 004" (PDF). Environment Canada. Retrieved 2010-05-29.
  3. Paleobiology Database
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 Italy and Slovenia (on behalf of the Member States of the European Community). "CoP13 Prop. 35 Inclusion of Lithophaga lithophaga in Appendix II, in accordance with Article II, paragraph 2 (a)." (PDF). CITES. Retrieved 2015-01-08.
  5. BIUS – Udruga studenata biologije (2001-07-26). "Prstaci (Lithophaga lithophaga)". University of Zagreb Faculty of Science Division of Biology. Retrieved 2010-05-06.
  6. Sea Life Base
  8. Croatian Parliament (1997-05-05). "Zakon o morskom ribarstvu" (in Croatian). Narodne novine 46/1997. Retrieved 2010-05-29. Radi zaštite hridinaste obale kao posebnog staništa ribolovnog mora zabranjen je izlov prstaca i zabranjeno je njihovo stavljanje u promet na cijelom teritoriju Republike Hrvatske, kao i njihov izvoz.
  9. 1 2 "Identification manual" (PDF). CITES Secretariat. 2007-06-15. Retrieved 2010-05-29.
  10. "Lithophaga lithophaga (Linnaeus, 1758)" (in French). GIS Posidonie. 2003-03-13. Retrieved 2010-06-20. Protection  : Interdiction de la pêche en France par arrêté du 26 novembre 1992.
  11. "Appendix II - Strictly protected fauna species". Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats. Council of Europe. 2002-03-01. Retrieved 2010-06-20. Molluscs - Bivalvia - Mytiloida - Lithophaga lithophaga (Med.)
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