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Phasianella australis (Family Turbinidae)

Pheasant Shell or Painted Lady


The Pheasant Shell has a southern Australian temperate distribution. It ranges from Vic across southern shores, including Tas, SA to Geraldton, WA. (VIC, SA, TAS, WA)


The Pheasant Shell is one of southern Australia's most beautiful, larger shells. It grows to a length of 40-60mm, with occasional specimens reaching100mm, width usually to 26mm. The shiny shell is long, thin and turban-shaped. It has eight smooth, rounded, whorls that have a deep valley-shaped suture, between them. It has a high pointed spire. The aperture is teat drop shaped. The white coloured, oval-shaped, calcareous operculum is solid and pointed at one end. The umbilicus is sealed. There is no covering periostracum, so this shows the full beauty of the shell.

The shell pattern is very variable, richly marked with lines, blotches and patterns of delicate tints and shapes. The name Painted Lady is a reference as to how beautiful this shell is. It is one of Australia's most beautiful shells. There appear to be a number of colour forms that are described in Wilson and Gillett (1982). The most frequent colours are pink, rose, cream, brown and red.

Ecology/Way of Life:

The Pheasant Shell is found at and below low tide levels on algae and seagrasses on open, low to medium energy coasts, down to 5 metres depth and in bays. It has been seen to be feeding on Sea Lettuce, Ulva lactuca and is common on sea grass beds. The fertilisation of its eggs occurs in water and its planktonic larvae hatch one day later.

Interaction with Humans/Threats:

The Pheasant Shell has a wide distribution and is locally common to abundant. It does not appear to be under threat from human activity at the moment, but is one shell that might be threatened by over collection for shell collections. Sampling is warranted to ensure this threat is monitored.

Other Comments:

Phasianella australis, Gmelin, 1788. Phasia comes from the Greek word phasis, meaning to shine. Australis and Auster are Latin words meaning the south wind, but this reference probably means coming from Australia.

Further Reading:

Bennett, I. (1987). W. J. Dakin's classic study: Australian Seashores: a guide to the temperate shores for the beach-lover, the naturalist, the shore-fisherman and the student. p.279, Angus and Robertson.

Davey, K. (1998) A Photographic Guide to Seashore Life of Australia. p.91, New Holland Press, Sydney.

Edgar, G.J. (1997). Australian Marine Life: the plants and animals of temperate waters. p.241, Reed.

Jansen, P. (2000), Seashells of South-East Australia. p.16, Capricornia Publications.

Macpherson, J. H. and Gabriel, C. J. (1962). Marine Molluscs of Victoria. p.82, Melbourne University Press.

Marine Research Group of Victoria (1984). Coastal Invertebrates of Victoria: An atlas of selected species. p.43, Museum of Victoria.

Shepherd, S. A. and Thomas, I. M. (1989). Marine Invertebrates of Southern Australia. Pt. II. p.562, South Australian Govt. Printing.

Wells, F. E. and Bryce, C. W. (1988). Seashells of Western Australia. p.48, Western Australian Museum.

Wilson, B. (1993) Australian Marine Shells. Prosobranch gastropods. Odyssey Publishing.

Wilson, B. R. and Gillett, K. (1979). A Field Guide to Australian Shells: Prosobranch Gastropods. p.46, Reed.

Topics: Shell Collecting Conservation


Text, map and photograph by Keith Davey.

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