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Cellana tramoserica (Family Patellidae)

Variegated Limpet



The Variegated Limpet has a south-east Australian distribution. Its range includes southern Qld, NSW, and Vic, to eastern SA, including the north-east coast of Tasmania (QLD, NSW, VIC, TAS, SA).


The Variegated Limpet is the most common limpet to be seen at mid-tide levels in south-eastern Australia. It grows to a shell length of 50-60mm. It has great variation in colour, hence its common name. In eastern forms there is a conspicuous radial banding of many colours including brown, black, orange, yellow, pink and white. Usually every third of fourth rib is darker, creating a striped pattern.

In the southern form, found on Victorian and South Australian shores, this limpet is almost a monotone colour, being light brown with a fine speckled pattern. The eastern and southern colour forms are so different, they could be easily be incorrectly identified as being a separate species.

The Variegated Limpet has an oval shaped shell that is slightly broader at rear. The shell apex is not quite central and is towards the front. Its sculpture consists of 36 strong, radial ribs with many fine encircling growth lines that are close together. The shell margin is finely scalloped. There is also a great range in form. Some individuals from low on the shore may be quite wide, thick and tall. High on the shore, others may be quite flat and thin shelled.

Ecology/Way of Life:

The Variegated Limpet occurs across all tide levels from high water mark down. It is more common at mid-tide levels. It can tolerate a wide range of habitats and is found under many conditions of exposure and dampness. It has the ability to excavate a depression for itself in the rock. The Variegated Limpet exhibits "homing" behaviour and can wander around in circles over a few days to return to its excavation using chemical sensors to follow their previous trail. They feed on algae.

Preferred Image

Interaction with Humans/Threats:

The Variegated Limpet is such a common species that there is probably no threat to itself from human interaction.

Other Comments:

Cellana tramoserica, Holten, 1802. Synonyms are Cellana variegata, Blainville, 1802, C. jacksonensis, Lesson, 1831, and C. variegata ariel, Iredale, 1924.

Cellana comes from the Latin word cella, meaning to cover, or cellare, an underground room. Tramoserca may come from the Latin word trama, meaning a weft consisting of two or three strands, while serica may come from the Greek word, serikos meaning Chinese, or it may come from the word sericon, conjectured to be a red or black tincture in alchemy.

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.268, Angus & Robertson.

Davey, K. (1998) A Photographic Guide to Seashore Life of Australia. p.79, New Holland Press, Sydney.

Edgar, G.J. (1997). Australian Marine Life: the plants and animals of temperate waters. p.233, Reed.

Jansen, P. (2000), Seashells of South-East Australia. p.10, Capricornia Publications.

Macpherson, J. H. & Gabriel, C. J. (1962). Marine Molluscs of Victoria. p.47, Melbourne University Press.

Marine Research Group of Victoria (1984). Coastal Invertebrates of Victoria: An atlas of selected species. p.29, Museum of Victoria.

Shepherd, S. A. & Thomas, I. M. (1989). Marine Invertebrates of Southern Australia. Pt. II. p.550, South Australian Govt. Printing.

Wilson, B. (1993) Australian Marine Shells. Prosobranch gastropods. p.35, Odyssey Publishing.

Wilson, B. R. & Gillett, K. (1979). A Field Guide to Australian Shells: Prosobranch Gastropods. p.34, Reed.


Text, map & photograph by Keith Davey.

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Images and Multi-media:  
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Distribution Map  
image/gif 980 bytes Distibution of Variegated Limpet

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