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Campanile symbolicum (Family Campanilidae)

Giant Creeper



The Giant Creeper has a limited range in south-west Western Australia from Esperance to Geraldton (WA).


The Giant Creeper has a distinctive spiral shell that is large, solid, long and turret-shaped. It grows to a length of 200mm and is the largest of the Creeper or Cerithiidae family. It has many smooth whorls, with sinuous growth lines. It is often heavily eroded and this gives it a fossilised appearance. The anterior canal is short, lying almost horizontal. The columella and outer lip of the aperture are smooth. The shell exterior is chalky white in colour, while the interior is glossy white. Although similar to the mud whelks, the shells the Giant creeper can be distinguished by having a thin outer lip, a rectangle-shaped aperture and a shell that has a chalky surface.

Ecology/Way of Life:

The Giant Creeper occurs in shallow water with a sandy substrate, down to 10 metres depth. On some shores, such as at Point Peron, WA, fossilised shells of this species are found everywhere, embedded in the rock. On some shores, dead, heavily eroded, as well as fossil shells lie together washed up on beaches. The genus has a long fossil record but this is the only surviving species of the genus. The Giant Creeper is quite similar to the Northern Mud Creeper, Terebralia palustris, that lives in the swampy mudflats under mangroves and in estuarine streams of northern tropical Australia. Although it appears similar to the mud-preferring creepers, it has been placed in the family Campanilidae because it prefers a sandy environment, and there are differences in their anatomy rather than shell shape (Edgar).

Preferred Image

Interaction with Humans/Threats:

This species survives as a relic population in south-west Western Australia. It is a relic of a group that was widely distributed during the Early Tertiary Period, 60 million years ago. Although it is common to abundant in its restricted range, this species is most certainly under threat from human interaction.

Other Comments:

Campanile symbolicum, Quoy & Gaimard, 1834 (in Edgar). Wilson & Gillett as well as Wells & Bryce state that Iredale, described the species in 1917. Campanile is an Italian word meaning bell-tower, especially a tall one detached from the church. Symbolicum may come from the Greek word symbolon, meaning a token, or an emblem that by custom represents something else.

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.283, Angus & Robertson.

Davey, K. (1998) A Photographic Guide to Seashore Life of Australia. p.105, New Holland Press, Sydney.

Edgar, G.J. (1997). Australian Marine Life: the plants and animals of temperate waters. p.248, Reed.

Houlbrick, R.S. (1981). Anatomy, biology and systematics of Campanile symbolicum with reference to adaptive radiation of the Cerithiacea (Gastropoda: prosobranchia). Malacologia, v.21, p.263-289.

Wells, F.E. & Bryce, C.W. (1988). Seashells of Western Australia. p.55, Western Australian Museum.

Wilson, B.R. & Gillett, K. (1979). A Field Guide to Australian Shells: Prosobranch Gastropods p.58, Reed.


Text, map & photograph by Keith Davey.

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Images and Multi-media:  
Attached Image  
image/jpeg 28026 bytes Giant Creeper
Distribution Map  
image/gif 923 bytes Distribution of Giant Creeper

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