Beak and Beak Sculpture main content.

Beak and Beak Sculpture

Alasmidonta heterodon Beak top view
Beak, top viewAlasmidonta heterodon
Beak size, prominence and structure vary among species and may aid in identification. The shape and arrangement of the contours of the beak are known as the beak sculpture, and if present can be seen clearly with a hand lens.  Examples of the beak and its sculpture are depicted below, and others may be seen in the species accounts.

The beak, the oldest part of the animal's shell, may best be seen in a posterior view.

Anodonta implicata Beak left valve
Beak, left valveAnodonta implicata
Alasmidonta undulata triangle floater
Alasmidonta undulatatriangle floater
Ligumia nasuta eastern pondmussel
Ligumia nasutaeastern pondmussel
It is not necessary to remove the thick outer covering, or periostracum, of the shell in order to reveal the lines and contours of the beak sculpture.
Lampsilis radiata eastern lampmussel
Lampsilis radiataeastern lampmussel
Strophitus undulatus creeper
Strophitus undulatuscreeper
A specimen of S. undulatus shows the distinct rings of the beak sculpture; although prominent, the double-looped beak sculpture of L. radiata is no longer apparent in this older specimen. Shell wear in older specimens and those from acidic waters may cause the beak sculpture to appear absent or indistinct.