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Turbo imperialis (Family Turbinidae)

Imperial Turban, or Military Turban


The Imperial Turban has an Indo-Pacific distribution. The Australian form, the Military Turban has an eastern Australian distribution. It ranges from northern Qld to southern NSW. (QLD, NSW)


The Imperial Turban is a very large, solid and heavy turban-shaped shell. It grows to a length of 80mm. Its whorls are rounded and smooth, but are not polished. Some shells have a few pronounced bumps and even spines. Its aperture is large and oval. The large white-coloured operculum outside surface is sculptured with many small bumps called pustules.

The Imperial Turban shell is greenish and silver in colour, with orange and brown markings. Inside the shell and the columella has a nacreous sheen.

Ecology/Way of Life:

The Imperial Turban occurs at the lowest-tide levels on rocky ocean shores at the level where Cunjevoi occur, in gutters and in deep pools down to 5 metres. It is usually found alongside or under boulders. It feeds on algae fronds. It is the most common of the three species of turban-shell in the central region of New South Wales. Interestingly, over the last 20 years the Imperial Turban has become more common on NSW shores. The sculpture and shape of the operculum is a useful identifying feature used to distinguish the Turbanids.

Other Comments:

Turbo is a Latin word that means a whirl or spinning top, while imperialis is derived from the Latin word imperium that means sovereignty.

Reproduction: Females of the Turbinidae family lay a gelation-like egg mass. The young hatch as free swimming larvae.

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.278, Angus and Robertson.

Davey, K. (1998) A Photographic Guide to Seashore Life of Australia. p.93, New Holland Press, Sydney.

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

Short, J. W. and Potter, D. G. (1987). Shells of Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef. p.14, Golden Press.

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.43, Reed.


Text, map and photograph by Keith Davey.

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