ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Limpet Snail ~ A Marine (Saltwater) Mollusk ~ Patella sp.

Updated on January 16, 2012
Keyhole limpet (Diodora aspera) with coral leaf algae (Bossiella sp.) - Salt Creek Recreation Area, Clallam County, Washinton, USA
Keyhole limpet (Diodora aspera) with coral leaf algae (Bossiella sp.) - Salt Creek Recreation Area, Clallam County, Washinton, USA | Source
Giant Keyhole Limpet Underside
Giant Keyhole Limpet Underside | Source

One of the marine aquariums that I set up in my home was a 55 gallon live reef tank. This means that I used live rock (rock from the ocean that contained live organisms such as corals, snails, anemones, limpets, etc. already on it) to create a living reef. These “live rocks” contained many hitchhikers which then found their way into my saltwater aquarium. One of the hitchhikers that I discovered was the limpet.

Answers.com defines a limpet as: “Any of numerous marine gastropod mollusks, as of the families Acmaeidae and Patellidae, characteristically having a conical shell and adhering to rocks of tidal areas.”

The second definition was: “One that clings persistently.” This definitely describes the limpet, which can be found in both fresh and salt waters, and in warm and cool waters, all over the earth.

The third definition may be familiar to war and military buffs: “A type of explosive designed to cling to the hull of a ship and detonate on contact or signal.” Again, it was used to describe something that clings.

Marine Mollusk / Saltwater Snail

Limpet is the name given to a snail that has a shell that is conical in shape, but whose shell is not coiled or appears not to be coiled. Although limpets can be found in freshwaters or saltwaters, we will be discussing the saltwater or marine limpet. Limpets typically range in size from ¾” (2 cm) to 4” (10 cm). This conical shape enables the limpet to survive the thousands of wave crashes it experiences every day without losing its footing.

Owl Limpet -  It is sometimes called "Farmer John".
Owl Limpet - It is sometimes called "Farmer John". | Source

Notice the etch type marks on the rock around the limpet. These are caused by its feeding behavior, and are made by its ribbon-like tongue which consists of rows of teeth.



Slipper limpets (Crepidula porcellana)
Slipper limpets (Crepidula porcellana) | Source

Most limpets have gills, but a few have developed the ability to breathe air much the same way as we do, adapting part of their mantle cavity to function as a lung.

Like their relative, the nudibranch, the limpet has a very strong muscular foot that acts as a clamp. They are able to attach to the rocks and coral surfaces with such extreme forces that it is nearly impossible to remove them from the rock. In fact, it will allow itself to be totally destroyed rather than release its hold. This could literally be described as a “death grip”.

This clamp down action helps them survive in another way also. They clamp down to seal their shell edges against the rock surface, trapping some water inside their shells, literally sealing themselves safely inside. This is beneficial to protect them from exposure to the air and the sun when the tide goes out and they find themselves exposed to the open air.

Limpet (Patella sp) - photo taken at Barns Ness, Dunbar, East Lothian, Scotland.
Limpet (Patella sp) - photo taken at Barns Ness, Dunbar, East Lothian, Scotland. | Source

Patella sp. Limpet

The Patella limpet, which can grow as large as 8 inches (20 cm), is in serious danger of becoming extinct because of over-harvesting by shell collectors and dealers, and by others who use it as a food source.

An interesting note: in humans, the patella is the kneecap bone. It is obvious where these Patella Limpets got their name.



Chemicals from the Keyhole Limpet are being tested in the treatment of cancer.
Chemicals from the Keyhole Limpet are being tested in the treatment of cancer. | Source
Limpet shells come in a variety of colors. Click on the image to get a closer look.
Limpet shells come in a variety of colors. Click on the image to get a closer look. | Source
Hitchhikers - Other sea creatures hitch rides on limpets.
Hitchhikers - Other sea creatures hitch rides on limpets. | Source

Most limpets are herbivores, grazing on algae. Some smaller species of limpets, live on seagrasses and graze on the microscopic algae growing on the seagrassess. Their tongues are very similar to a cat’s. They use their tongues to rasp, or scrape, the algae from surfaces. If you have ever been licked by a cat, you would understand this process.

The limpet species, Lottia gigantean, actually tend their own garden patches. They establish a territory and aggressively push other creatures out of their area by ramming them with their shell. Therefore, insuring themselves of a constant food source. This territorial behavior is atypical.

Limpets find themselves as a food source to starfish, shore birds, fish, seals, and humans. To defend themselves from these predators, the limpet will clamp down on a surface in their environment. The second method they utilize is to flee. This is not as effective, because to a limpet, fleeing means moving at the speed of several inches an hour!

Limpets have been documented to live as long as 20 years.

Limpets spawn once a year, usually in the winter, by releasing eggs and sperm into the water column. Their larvae live free floating in the ocean waters for a couple weeks and then settle down to the ocean floor.

Limpets also exhibit homing characteristics, always returning to the same place after eating. Often times, they will use this same spot their whole life. Limpets, who do not have any eyes, leave mucus trails, like a land snail or slug, which enables them to find their way back home.

Limpets are related to abalone, nudibranchs, sea hares, octopus, squid, scallop, mussels, oysters, clams, chitons, and snails.

The Keyhole Limpet has developed a symbiotic relationship with a worm that lives under its shell. When a starfish attacks this limpet, the worm will come out and zap the starfish causing it to retreat. The limpet and the worm serves as protectors for each other.


All Rights Reserved

Copyright © 2011 Cindy Murdoch (homesteadbound)




Your Future is Waiting! Do you feel you have great information or stories to share with others? Sign Up Here. . . It’s quick, easy and free to join HubPages!

How to Gather and Cook Limpets

In the video below, Fraser Christian of CoastalSurvival.com, a coastal forager, shows how to gather and cook limpets.

Other Sealife Articles By This Author:

Comments: "Limpet Snail ~ A Marine (Saltwater) Mollusk ~ Patella sp."

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • homesteadbound profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Murdoch 

      7 years ago from Texas

      Ahydz - Thanks for the votes and thanks for stopping by!

    • Ahydz profile image

      Ahydz 

      7 years ago from Philippines

      Interesting hub! Voted UP!

    • homesteadbound profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Murdoch 

      7 years ago from Texas

      adrienne2 - Wow... marine biology ... I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Moon Daisy profile image

      Moon Daisy 

      7 years ago from London

      Another great hub! I have been fascinated by limpets ever since I used to find them at the beach as a child. It's great to learn some more facts about them after all this time.

    • adrienne2 profile image

      Adrienne F Manson 

      7 years ago from Atlanta

      Well I feel like I just have a mini-course in Marine Biology. Very nice hub! Thank you for sharing, also I didn't know about the Keyhole Limpet being tested for the treatment of cancer. Your pictures are amazing.

    • homesteadbound profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Murdoch 

      7 years ago from Texas

      Brennawelker - it is amazing that they can live that long, isn't it! There are so many amazing creatures in the oceans.

      Thanks for stopping by!

    • homesteadbound profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Murdoch 

      7 years ago from Texas

      Brennawelker - it is amazing that they can live that long, isn't it! There are so many amazing creatures in the oceans.

      Thanks for stopping by!

    • brennawelker profile image

      brennawelker 

      7 years ago

      Never thought of Limpet which can live for so many years.Amazing creatures. Very nice hub!

    • homesteadbound profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Murdoch 

      7 years ago from Texas

      jami l. pereira - I think the first picture looks like a woman's hat. These are interesting creatures. Thanks for stopping by. Have a great evening and week.

    • profile image

      jami l. pereira 

      7 years ago

      Awesome job! , i enjoyed the read , amazing the wonderful creatures of the sea..AND these are really cool too :) Too bad people destroy everything , have a great evening , i voted up all the way across the board , except funny :) thanks again for the read:)

    • homesteadbound profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Murdoch 

      7 years ago from Texas

      Eiddwen- I'm pleased that you enjoyed the hub. They really are interesting little creatures. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 

      7 years ago from Wales

      A great hub ,so very interesting.

      Take care

      Eiddwen.

    • homesteadbound profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Murdoch 

      7 years ago from Texas

      cloverleaf- thanks for stopping by. And, yes, it would really be neat if this creature would hold the secret to the cure for cancer.

    • Cloverleaf profile image

      Cloverleaf 

      7 years ago from Calgary, AB, Canada

      Hi Homesteadbound, these creatures are really lovely. I especially like the keyhole limpet, very unusual. Wouldn't it be incredible if the chemicals in them could actually be tested positive in a treatment for cancer?

      Cloverleaf.

    • homesteadbound profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Murdoch 

      7 years ago from Texas

      Movie Master - It is amazing how complex and varied sea life really is. They really do have pretty shells, one of the reasons that some of them are endangered. Thanks for stopping by!

      Gypsy Willow - How wonderful to have been able to pick them up at 2 wonderful locations. I don't get to the beach often, but I love to read about sealife and to watch the learning channel and the discovery channel. I'm glad you enjoyed the hub.

    • Gypsy Willow profile image

      Gypsy Willow 

      7 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      Wonderful hub on these inoffensive sea creatures. I picked up some on Sydney beach in Australia and they look just the same as the shells I find in Wales.

    • Movie Master profile image

      Movie Master 

      7 years ago from United Kingdom

      I had no idea that some Limpets come so big, and can live upto 20 years! There shells are truly lovely.

      I really enjoyed reading, I've learnt a lot!

      Many thanks for sharing.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)