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Scutus unguis (Family Fissurellidae)

Clawed Shield Shell


The Clawed Shield Shell has an Indo-West Pacific distribution. In northern tropical Australia it ranges from Shark Bay, WA across northern shores, including NT to southern Qld (WA, NT, QLD).


The body of the Clawed Shield Shell is large and fleshy, with a large flattened shield-like shell, with its peaked apex at about 1/3 from anterior end and pointing forwards. Its anal notch is V-shaped and is wide and shallow. It grows to a shell length of 40-45mm. The shell sculpture consists of faint concentric striations that characteristically look like small pustules. The animal has a slug-like appearance, where the body folds up around the edge of the shell. It does not look like its black relative, the Elephant Snail, Scutus antipodes that is found across southern temperate Australian shores. Fissurelids do not have an operculum.

The body colour is light to mid brown, with a white to fawn coloured shell.

Ecology/Way of Life:

The Clawed Shield Shell is found at low tide levels and below on rocky shores lightly covered with a mud layer, where they feed on algae and detritus.

Interaction with Humans/Threats:

The Clawed Shield Shell occurs across northern tropical Australia where there are few large concentrations of human settlement. It is therefore probably safe from human intervention.

Other Comments:

Scutus unguis, Linnaeus, 1758. Scutus comes form the Latin word scutum, meaning a shield. Unguis is the Latin word for claw.

Synonyms are Parmophorus (Scutus) granulatus, Blainville 1819, Scutus olonguis, Iredale 1940, and Scutus dunguis.

Further Reading:

Davey, K. (1998) A Photographic Guide to Seashore Life of Australia. p.75, New Holland Press, Sydney.

Short, J. W. & Potter, D. G. (1987). Shells of Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef. p.6, Golden Press.

Wells, F. E. & Bryce, C. W. (1988). Seashells of Western Australia. Western Australian Museum.

Wilson, B. (1993) Australian Marine Shells. Prosobranch gastropods. v.1, p.59. Odyssey Publishing.

Wilson, B. R. & Gillett, K. (1979). A Field Guide to Australian Shells: Prosobranch Gastropods. p.28, Reed.


Text, map & photograph by Keith Davey.

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