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FAQs about Marine Snail Identification 20

Related Articles: Gastropods, Sea Slugs, Mollusks, Abalone,

Related FAQs: Snail ID 1, Snail ID 2, Snail ID 3, Snail ID 4, Snail ID 5, Snail ID 6, Snail ID 7, Snail ID 8, Snail ID 9, Snail ID 10, Snail ID 11, Snail ID 12, Snail ID 13, Snail ID 14, Snail ID 15, Snail ID 16, Snail ID 17, Snail ID 18, Snail ID 19, Snail ID 21, Snail ID 22, Snail ID 23, Snail ID 24, Snail ID 25, Snail ID 26, & Marine Snails 1, Marine Snails 2, Marine Snails 3, Invertebrate ID, Snail Behavior, Snail Selection, Snail Compatibility, Snail Systems, Snail Feeding, Snail Disease, Snail Reproduction, Mollusks, Sea Slugs, Abalone,

Cone Shell Snail? Nope, Likely Marginellid -- 9/5/09
<Hello Ron, Lynn here today.>
I finally managed to catch this little guy that I've seen now and then.
<What a little beauty!>
It looks a bit like a cone shell snail to me but a more expert opinion would be great.
<It does indeed look a bit like a cone snail (family: Conidae), or even a type of olive (family: Olividae), but the shape/thickened outer area of the lip is inconsistent with either group. It appears to be what's commonly called a Marginella, or 'margin' shell (family: Marginellidae). If your snail originated anywhere from the coast of North Carolina to Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, West Indies or Mexico, it's most likely Prunum apicinum (aka the Common Atlantic Marginella). These beautiful little shallow water snails only reach around 14mm (just over half an inch) in total length and are sand-dwelling carnivores and scavengers. They emerge en masse when they smell food/prey and pile on, grabbing whatever bits they can, as fast as they can. They then drag any sizable items back under the sand to consume. One thing of note is that these snails have a decided appetite for other Molluscs, including clams, limpets, Cerith snails, olive snails, etc., so if you have any of these in your tank, watch out. If that's not an issue, I'd offer the little fellow meaty bits of marine origin (an opened fresh clam, bits of shrimp, fish, etc.) and enjoy the show! Please see the following links for photo comparison:
Note variation in color: http://www.jaxshells.org/prunumx.htm
Good close-up of a live individual: http://205606.aceboard.net/205606-2058-7943-0-Prunum-apicinum-Menke-1828.htm >
It is less than half an inch long. So it could still be a juvenile of something?
<If it is indeed P. apicinum, then yes, judging by the size and relative transparency of the shell (that becomes less so with age), it's not quite an adult. The beautiful black and white pattern you see is actually the underlying tissue!>
<It was a pleasure, Ron.>
<Take care, LynnZ>

Help With Snail Please: Florida Crown Conch - 6/23/09
<Hello Shelly, Lynn here today>
I have found this large snail...can't find out anything about it.
<The common name is the Florida Crown Conch, a carnivorous predator/scavenger that inhabits intertidal/some subtidal areas: mud flats, oyster beds, estuaries, salt marshes, and such. This species (Melongena corona) varies considerably in size, color, and shape, which has unfortunately led to some taxonomic confusion and debate. The various morphs are generally considered either one of several species/subspecies within what's known as the 'Melongena corona complex', or simply as a variant of the single species: Melongena corona. Please see the following links for more information:
http://zipcodezoo.com/Key/Animalia/Melongena_Genus.asp >
I have it in my saltwater tank. It was found at the Ponce inlet in New Smyrna beach Florida.
I have tried to look it up; I know it is some kind of venomous cone snail
<No worries, it's not a cone snail or venomous.>
....but it is so prehistoric looking...like nothing I can research.
<It is indeed an interesting looking snail. Thankfully there's a lot of available information on the 'net and elsewhere -- just use the terms above.>
Can you help me identify it or pass me on to someone who can?
<I think we've got it!>
Thank you
<You're very welcome>
Shelly Broussard
<Lynn Zurik>
The picture does not do him justice...he is LARGE!
<Yes, Crown Conchs can apparently get pretty sizeable (up to ~8').>
It has the "shooter" thing that comes out the one hole on the end of the shell...
<Well, while Melongena species and cone snails both have a proboscis (long tubular feeding organ), only the cone snail has the added venomous harpoon-like device. Melongena species' main diet consists of bivalves and other gastropods/snails (including each other), dead or dying animals, and possibly ascidians/tunicates. Harpoon-like devices and fast acting venoms are handy for capturing and subduing active/struggling prey, but in the case of Melongena species' prey, it's overkill. Their main prey items aren't going to suddenly swim away. These snails typically use their long proboscis to work between the two halves of a bivalve and feed bit by bit on tissue removed by means of tiny 'radular' teeth.>
..then like a head and face under that with two "antenna" things on it. He glides around the tank on large mass
<The "foot">
that has a hard bottom on it.
<What you may be seeing is the snail's oval operculum (trap door at the opening of a snail that protects the soft body inside from predation and desiccation).>
He mostly stays buried in the sand...but when he does move he is fast!
<That's pretty typical. When they smell food, they erupt out of the sand!>
I have had him in my tank for over 6 months...and just saw him kill a fish!!!!
<Yikes! Although healthy/live fish are not usually on the menu, these are opportunistic snails that will take advantage of any food opportunity that comes their way. They've got big appetites and are not picky. You might want to offer your snail a bit more food -- clams, fish, shrimp, etc., to hopefully deter further predation. If that doesn't work, you'll need to remove one or the other to another tank.>
I tried to look him up and found other poisonous cone snails....sort of like him...but nothing close! If he is endangered
<Nope, it's a common snail.>
or of scientific use I would like to turn him over to the proper people. I have been collecting things out of the Indian River and Atlantic Ocean in the New Smyrna beach area for over 25 years
<I know it's tempting, but we do try to discourage people from doing this because so many find out too late that they're unable to care for an animal long term. Also, collection is regulated or prohibited in many coastal areas. Here are two links to the new Florida regulations that take effect July 1:
http://www.floridaconservation.org/RULESANDREGS/Saltwater_Regulations_recseashells.htm >
...and have NEVER found anything like this!
Thank you again.
<You're very welcome again! Take care, LynnZ>

Slug/Snail Type Hitchhiker: Stomatella - 5/21/09
Hello WWM crew.
<Hello, Todd>
I was staring at my tank as usual, when I came across this slug/snail looking hitchhiker. It appears to have some sort of shell on it, and a "tail". It also has 2 antennae/feelers on the front.
<It's a very common and beneficial little gastropod in the genus Stomatella. These herbivorous grazers are a completely harmless and welcome addition to anyone's cleaning crew. For more information, please see the following links: FAQ titled 'Hitchhiker Snail Reproduction: Stomatella varia - 1/17/08': http://www.wetwebmedia.com/snailreprofaq2.htm
Google 'Stomatella' in our search engine for numerous additional FAQ's re: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/Googlesearch.htm >
My tank is a 300g FOWLR for now, planning on turning it into a reef. For fish I have a pair of O. clowns, a pair of maroon clowns, a purple tang, orange shoulder tang, yellow tang, blue/regal tang, Kole tang, Foxface, and asfur angelfish. I have maybe 10 small mushrooms, and 20 or so zoo's (pretty much nonexistent in a tank this size), also a frag of frogspawn, and a RBTA (split into 2 about 3 months ago), and a GBTA (just split into 2 about a weeks ago, it was HUGE before the split, at least 8-9" across).
I also have a few peppermint shrimp, a few cleaner shrimp, some emerald crabs and sally Lightfoot crabs,
<Watch out for the crabs, especially the sally Lightfoots. They start off small and fairly innocuous, but turn into very swift and effective predators as they mature. They're known for killing fish, hermits, shrimps, and smaller crabs, tearing up anemones and corals (to get to what's in their guts), as well as being a challenge to trap. Emerald crabs, like just about every other crab out there, are opportunistic and can be a problem as well, but not as much as the sally Lightfoot. For more information on either, please see WWM (see the above search engine).>
..hermit crabs, tons of snails, feather dusters etc...
Any help in identifying this creature would be greatly appreciated, that way I can either put him back in the tank, or get rid of him.
<This is one little fellow you want to keep!!>
Thanks in advance
<You're very welcome.>
Todd Angus
<Take care, LynnZ>

Are These Baby Turbo Snails? Chitons and Mystery Critter -- 5/15/09
WWM Crew:
<Hello, Jesse>
I recently had an outbreak of Asterina starfish in my reef tank so I've been paying close attention to my rock work and removing them as I see them.
<Not fun. Most of the time those little guys are harmless but if/when you get too many or if you get a variety with a taste for your favorite coral - yikes!>
While on starfish patrol I noticed an abundance of small (ant sized) creatures I haven't seen on my rock work before. I removed a few and photographed them...see attached.
<I see, thanks.>
They appear to be snail like, having a protective shell and a soft gooey body.
<Hmmmm, crunchy on the outside, gooey in the middle. Sounds like a Baby Ruth bar! Actually, what you have are harmless and beneficial little critters commonly called Chitons, or more specifically, Polyplacophorans. This particular variety is one I have in my tanks and has never caused any problems. They're herbivorous grazers of hard surfaces, stay small, and apparently reproduce quite readily in captivity. All in all, they're a welcome addition to a reef tank. Here's a photo of several of mine for comparison (these are about 3mm long): http://bb.wetwebmedia.com/gallery/pic.php?mode=large&pic_id=126 .
For more information on Chitons, please see the following WWM links, starting here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/chitonfaqs.htm
http://bb.wetwebmedia.com/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=298&p=3108#p3108 >
I've also noticed that almost all of the 3-7mm sized snails in my tank have white spots/growths on their shells. I have also attached a picture of this but it's of poor quality.
<I'm sorry, but I can't see the subjects well enough to be able to determine what anything is. If you could take one out and get a more detailed photo that would be super. If you could get photos from several angles, including the opening it would be even better!>
Also, these creatures only come out at night,
<If you mean the Chitons, that's completely normal.>
..the same time as the baby snails with the spots on them. What do you think these creatures are, and are they a threat to my reef tank?
<I doubt it, but it's always nice to be able to confirm that. Have you noticed any sort of damage/sign of trouble? Do try to get some additional photos of these critters and we'll see if we can't figure out what they are.>
Thank you in advance,
<You're very welcome. I look forward to solving the remaining snail mystery!>
<Take care, LynnZ>

Snail ID: Olive -- 5/15/09
Hello again WWM Crew!!!
<Hello Sandra!>
I am in need of a snail identification, please.
<Sure thing, let's get to it.>
This big guy had to have hitchhiked in on my live rock about 6 months ago. I had been trying to catch him for about a month. He's nocturnal and hides very quickly when you shine a flashlight on him.
<Yep, they can move surprisingly fast for a snail!>
I have only seen him on the rocks, never on a coral or the sand.
<These guys like to burrow/bury themselves in the sand, but emerge to hunt/forage -- mostly at night.>
I've looked at that snail ID site that has all of the shells on it and the only thing similar that I have seen is a cone snail but I don't really think he's a cone snail.
<You're right. What you have is commonly referred to as an Olive snail (family: Olividae, genus: Oliva). I wish I could give you the species name, but I'd need the snail's location of origin in order to even begin to narrow things down. Further complicating matters is the degree to which these snails can vary within a given species. From what I've seen, your snail might well be Oliva(Miniaceoliva) miniacea, of which there seem to be many subspecies. One thing that's a bit odd about your snail is the shape of the opening at what most people think of as the bottom end of the shell (opposite end from the spire). As you'll see in the photos linked below, most Olive snails have an obvious notch at the end (called a siphonal notch). Yours has a siphonal canal -- an extended tube-like structure more common to Murex, Whelks, Tulip snails, etc. That doesn't mean that this isn't an Olive snail, it's just an interesting difference that I wanted to point out. Please see the following links for comparison/more information:
See various Oliva(Miniaceoliva) miniacea spp. about 2/3 down the page: http://www.gastropods.com/Taxon_pages/TN_Family_OLIVIDAE_OLIVINAE.shtml
See WWM's Google search engine (enter the term 'Olive snail'): http://www.wetwebmedia.com/WWMAdminSubWebIndex/question_page.htm >
He's about 2 1/4 inches long and has a brown and white zig-zag like pattern.
<He's a real beauty!>
He's very shiny like a Cowry but his shell is super thin. So thin that I have accidentally broken part of the lip of his shell.
His mantle is solid black and when it's fully out it's got kind of a spiny look like a sea cucumber.
I am attaching 5 pictures of him. He does not like light at all so I couldn't get a picture of him fully out and moving about. One picture is of him upside down. Two show part of his mantle and the other one shows the pattern of his shell from the back.
<Good job - I appreciate the many shots and different angles! Every little bit helps when it comes to ID's!>
I have him in a quarantine tank now with a black mantis shrimp that for some reason doesn't bother snails or hermit crabs.
<It could be a 'spearing' variety of mantis instead of a 'smasher'. Spearers are ambush predators that prey on soft-bodied creatures (fish, worms, etc), while smashers boldly approach their prey (snails, crabs, etc) and knock/smash the living daylights out of them with club-like appendages. It's also possible that you're keeping the mantis so well fed that it doesn't need to prey on your livestock (the noticeable ones, anyway!).>
Is he safe to have in a reef tank with fish, SPS corals, other snails and live rock?
<Regarding the Olive snail, I'd be most concerned about your other resident snails' safety. Oliva spp. are not herbivores. They're predators and scavengers. Since yours hasn't been preying on other snails, he's likely been surviving on the assorted fauna on/within the rocks/sand (along with any leftover food lying about). The good news is that with such a large tank (given the appropriate amount of rock/sand), his potential impact on the beneficial faunal population is a whole lot less that it would be if he was in a very small tank. In that case, he might well strip it of live food pretty quickly and proceed to go after your snails! As I see it, you've got three choices here. 1- Put him back in the display, make sure he's well fed, keep an eye out for livestock loss and remove if/when necessary. 2- Keep him in a separate tank. 3- Find him another home. Personally, I'd put him back into the display but keep a very sharp eye out for any problems.>
He's been in a 180 gallon reef for at least 6 months and I haven't "noticed" him bothering anything but I wanted to make sure.
<I can certainly understand that!>
Thank you all very much for all your help over the years.
<On behalf of Bob and my fellow crew members, you're very welcome!>
<Take care, LynnZ>

Re: Snail ID: Olive -- 5/15/09    6/28/13
Hi Bob,
 <Hey Lynn!>
I came upon a (very) old query of mine that I believe needs an addendum. 
I've been studying Conids for the past couple of months and the more I look at them, the more I think that the snail in question could well be a Conid instead of an Olivid.  With that in mind, I'd like to see a note added relaying the need to treat this, and any other snails with this appearance, as potentially dangerous.  It's just not worth the risk. 
Here's the link: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/SnailID20.htm?h= 
<Thank you. Will addend/post adjacent. BobF>

Snail ID: Bullia natalensis - 4/7/09
Hi Crew,
<Hello Mohamed>
Can you please help me ID this snail which is found off the coast of South Africa? It looks like some type of Nassarius.
<You're very close! They're in the same family, Nassariidae, but your snail, Bullia natalensis, actually belongs within a subfamily called Bulliinae. This group of snails is generally referred to as 'Plough' snails. Although there are many species of Bullia known to inhabit the waters around Africa, B. natalensis is particularly common in the surf zone of Natal's sandy beaches. Please see this link for photos and a bit more information: http://www.gastropods.com/6/Shell_4046.shtml >
What is the purpose and function of this snail?
<I guess you could say that it's to keep the beaches clean. These snails are scavengers that, although completely blind, have an extremely well developed sense of smell. They use it to locate dead and dying organisms, either in the shallows or up on the wet sand of the surf zone.>
Can it be used in aquariums?
<As a scavenger, yes, I would think so but this snail gets pretty big (up to 6cm/~2 3/8'). It's going to have a big appetite! You'd have to keep it well fed with meaty bits (of marine origin). Scavenging snails have been known to turn to live foods, such as a hobbyist's favorite clam, etc., if/when they get hungry enough.>
<You're very welcome. Take care, LynnZ>

Hitchhiker ID Please 3/23/09
I need help identifying this hitchhiker. It resembles a small Stomatella or Chiton, but I don't think that's what it is. It's about 1/4" in diameter, very flat. It has two sensory tentacles on the head, but it also has tentacles about 3/16" long all the way around its body. It moves like a Stomatella, but slower. It has a broken up burgundy and white pattern on its back. If region helps, I believe it came in on a recent shipment of corals
from Kupang. I have attached some pictures, but it was hard to get a good picture of something so small. By the way, thanks for all you do for our hobby, I use your site constantly.
<Welcome... I do agree this is a snail of some sort... but I can't discern much more than you have listed. I would enjoy it/them and leave them be if not causing trouble out of hand. Thank you for sharing. Will ask LynnZ for her input here as well. Bob Fenner>

Hitchhiker ID Please -- 3/23/09
I need help identifying this hitchhiker. It resembles a small Stomatella or Chiton,
<It's hard to tell from the photos but I'm guessing it's not all comprised of soft parts? In other words, there's a shell of some sort present? If so, is it flat, slightly domed, conical, etc? Do you see any sort of spiral structure or radiating lines anywhere on it?>
..but I don't think that's what it is. It's about 1/4" in diameter, very flat.
<What's the general outline/shape? Is it basically round or is it oval/length>width)?>
It has two sensory tentacles on the head, but it also has tentacles about 3/16" long all the way around its body. It moves like a Stomatella, but slower. It has a broken up burgundy and white pattern on its back.
<Is this pattern on what appears to be a shell/hard surface, or on soft tissue?>
If region helps, I believe it came in on a recent shipment of corals from Kupang.
<That's great, thanks. Every little bit of information helps when it comes to ID's.>
I have attached some pictures, but it was hard to get a good picture of something so small.
<Yep, it can sure be a challenge. Does your camera have a macro setting (usually indicated by a small flower symbol)? If so, please do try to get another photo or two and resend. Right now, I just don't have enough information to be able to determine what it is. I do agree with Bob though, that it's likely a snail of some sort.>
By the way, thanks for all you do for our hobby, I use your site constantly.
<You're very welcome. Take care, Lynn>

Re: Hitchhiker ID Please: Juvenile Abalone -- Haliotis asinina 3/24/09
<Hello Matt>
I pulled it out of the tank to get some better pictures.
<Thank you so much. What a beautiful little creature!>
To answer your questions, it has a hard shell almost completely flat and a foot like a snail. It is almost completely round, but when I photographed it, I noticed it is a little "U" shaped, or maybe like a kidney bean shape but flat. The pattern is on the shell part. It does not appear to bother any livestock.
<Nope, these are herbivores, so no worries.>
It stays in a 1 inch radius of the small indention in the rock that it is living in.
<Supposedly, these are nocturnal, so yours may well venture about at night, but return to the same spot in the morning. I've seen this sort of 'homing' behavior with urchins. If you didn't know better you'd swear they never left that one spot!>
It almost appears to filter feed, but definitely not sure about that.
<They actually feed on various algae species. Apparently, they prefer Rhodophytes (red algae) such as Coelothrix, Hypnea, Laurencia and Amphiroa, but will also feed on Gracilaria/Gracillariopsis. You could try offering yours some of the commonly available dried (red) seaweed sheets. The easiest way to present it is to tear off a piece and attach it to a rock with a rubber band. Simply set it near the animal, either right before the lights go out, or afterwards if you have any herbivorous fishes that would tear the sheet apart.>
The tentacles resemble Aiptasia.
<Yep, what you're seeing is a perimeter of sensory tentacles.>
Hope this helps.
<Yes indeed! These new photos are exactly what I needed. If you look closely at the shell, you'll see a line of respiratory holes (apertures) along the top edge facing the camera. These are common to Abalone (Haliotis spp.). The really neat thing, though, is the presence of those little blue spots. That clinches the ID as a juvenile Haliotis asinina, aka the Ass's Ear Abalone (because of the adult shell's supposed resemblance to a donkey's ear). Personally, I think that's an awful name for such a little beauty but oh well. These are common shallow water inhabitants of reef edges, and size-wise top out somewhere between ~2 3/8' and 4 ¾' (6--12cm). For more information, please see the following links: http://www.animalpicturesarchive.com/view.php?tid=2&did=25332
This next link shows the progression of shell development:
Take care and enjoy your Abalone! LynnZ >

<<Gorgeous!! -Sara M.>>
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