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Nerita chamaeleon (Family Neritidae)

Changeable Nerite



A North-West Pacific distribution. In Australia this tropical species ranges from North West Cape in WA, across the northern shores of NT and Qld extending down to Fraser Island in southern Queensland (WA, NT, QLD, ISLANDS).


This variable nerite has a broad, turban-shaped shell with a low spire. It grows to a length of 20 mm. The shell is roughly sculptured with strong, deep spiral ribs, often with secondary ribs between. The outer lip of the aperture has a sharp edge marked with weak bumps called teeth. The columellar deck or platform is narrow, sculptured with weak pustule-like bumps and striations and two to four centrally placed marginal teeth on the inner margin.

The Changeable Nerite is very variable in colouration, hence its species name. The shell exterior may be an evenly coloured yellow, orange, red, grey, white or black or may be banded or spotted with grey, purple or black. The interior and columellar deck are white and the finely granular operculum is grey in colour.

Ecology/Way of Life:

The Changeable Nerite occurs fairly high on intertidal shores and on protected reefs. They live so high on the shore that they may be exposed to the drying effects of the sun for long periods of time. Their tightly fitting opeculum cover is a neat fit and prevents water loss. It may occur with the Wave-marked Nerite, Nerita undata, but the Changeable Nerite occurs at a lower level on the shore.

Preferred Image

Interaction with Humans/Threats:

This is a wide ranging, common species across northern tropical Australia, so there appears to be little threat from human interaction.

Other Comments:

Nerita chamaeleon , Linnaeus, 1758. Nereites or nerites are the Greek words for a sea snail of various kinds. Chamaeleon comes from the Greek word chamaileon or chamai, which is derived from the Latin humi, meaning on the ground like a dwarf and leon, meaning a lion. A chamaeleon is a small lizard famous for changing its colour.

Further Reading:

Davey, K. (1998), A Photographic Guide to Seashore Life of Australia. New Holland Press. p. 96.

Short, J. W. & Potter, D.G. (1987), Shells of Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef. Golden Press. p. 18.

Wilson, B. (1993). Australian Marine Shells. V.1. p.40.

Wilson, B. R. & Gillett, K. (1979). (1993) A Field Guide to Australian Shells: Prosobranch Gastropods. p. 48. Reed


Text, map & photograph by Keith Davey.

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Images and Multi-media:  
Attached Image  
image/jpeg 103726 bytes Changeable Nerite
Distribution Map  
image/gif 992 bytes Distribution of Changeable Nerite

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