North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission

Cape Fear Spike

Scientific Name: Elliptio marsupiobesa

Classification:  State Special Concern

Photo Credit: NCWRC




NOTE: Hover over the bold words for definitions or see the Glossary.

The CapeFear spike may reach about three inches in length. The anterior third of the shell is considerably thicker than the posterior third, and the shell appears to significantly thicken as individuals grow. The shell is distinctly wedge shaped without sexual dimorphism.The swollen posterior ridge is keeled and the posterior slope is narrow and concave. Adults have one or two radial grooves on the posterior slopes. Growth rests are clearly expressed in the shells.The periostracum of young individuals is smooth with a shiny, yellow-brown color. Green rays may be present on the posterior half of the shell. Older individuals are a dark brownish-black with roughened margins and posterior slopes.


Shell Anatomy

Distribution byCounty: Cape Fear River Basin: Bladen Co. (Black River Subbasin); CumberlandCo. (Cape Fear River); Pender Co. (Black River Subbasin); Sampson Co. (BlackRiver Subbasin). Lumber River Basin: Robeson Co. (Ashpole Swamp, Aarons Swamp).Neuse River Basin: Johnston Co. (Swift Cr. and Little River subbasins). NOTE:All headwater areas that flow into these occupied habitats should receivespecial management.


As provided by Fuller(1972), the Cape Fear spike was found in muddy, loose, sandy substrates belowlogjams. Since discovery, it has also been found in firm, sandy substrates.

Fuller (1972) found gravid females around the middle of June. Nothing is known about the fish hosts or ecology of the species.


General Life History For Mussels