In order to better understand and identify gastropods seashells, i have compiled a list of families of gastropods seashells with some examples of species.
Gastropods form the largest community of seashells with nearly 20,000 - 30,000 known species. The majority of gastropods are highly mobile and active creatures. Below are the pictures of shells (available in store) of the respective family. *Pls refer to my other Review submitted titled "Common Terms associated with Seashells" for reference of the technical terms used in this review*
- Top Shells (Trochoidea) - This family of shells enjoy a worldwide distribution. Most are herbivores. Virtually all are conical shaped. Eg. Comercial Trochus (Trochus niloticus) and Mottled Top (Trochus maculatus).
- Turban Shells (Turbinidae) - This is a popular family of shells for collectors. The various species may be almost spherical or top-shaped, smooth or strongly ornamented; some have spines or flutings. The aperture is pearly. Most occur in warm waters around coral reefs. Eg. Great Green Turban (Turbo marmoratus), Tapestry Turban (Turbo petholatus) and South African Turban (Turbo sarmaticus)
- Nerites (Neritidae) - These thick, short spired shells have a thickened outer lip which is often toothed. Some species vary greatly in colour. Most are found on rocky shores and among mangroves. Eg. Polished Nerite (Neria polita) and Zigzag Nerite (Neritina communis)
- Sundials (Architectonicidae) - Species have very colourful winding-staircase whorl. Solid shell with evenly expanding whorls and a deep suture. Eg. Clear Sundial (Architectonica perspectiva)
- Wentletraps (Epitoniidae) - The aperture is round and smooth, the umbilicus open or closed. Most species are thin and white. They live in sandy areas and many are intertidal. Eg. Precious Wentletrap (Epitonium scalare)
- Carrier Shells (Xenophoridae) - These delicate top-shaped shells sometimes amass other shells, stones and other sea floor debris to their upper surface. All have a thin, corneous operculum. Eg. Sunburst Carrier (Stellaria Solaris)
- Conchs Shells (Strombidae) - Large and well-kinown family. Strombs possess a flaring lip, spider conchs have long, finger like extensions, while tibias are spindle-shaped with long siphonal canal. Many conchs are very colourfull. They live mainly in shallow water. Eg. Little Bear Conch (Strombus urceus), Common Spider Conch (Lambis lambis) and Spindle Tibia (Tibia fusus)
- Cowries (Cypraeidae) - Cowries have been universally collected, admired and treasured for centuries. Their beautiful colours and glossy surface made them the undiputed collectors' favourite. The basic shape varies little, but the species differ greatly in colour, size, pattern and price range. Active at night but hidden by day, these speceis browse on algae around coral reefs. Eg. Golden Cowrie (Cypraea aurantium), Tiger Cowrie (Cypraea tigris), Map Cowrie (Cypraea mappa) and Eyed Cowrie (Cypraea argus)
- Helmet shells (Cassidae) - Usually short spired and body whorls ornamented with knobs, ribs or varices. The outer lip is thick and often tooth. Mostly sand dwellers feeding on sea urchins. Eg. Bull's Mouth Helmet (Cypraecassis rufa) and Chequered Bonnet (Phalium areola)
- Fig Shells (Ficidae) - Thin with a smooth, fig shaped outline. They have short spire and a large body whorl with drawn-out siphonal canal. All species live offshore on sand. Eg. Graceful Fig Shell (Ficus gracilis)
- Tun Shells (Tonnidae) - The globose and often large shells are thin with low or depressed spire and very inflated body whorl. They are ornamented with spiral ribs, giving a fluted edge to the aperture. Found mostly in snad, beyond the edge of the coral reef. Eg. Spotted Tun (Tonna dolium) and Banded Tun (Tonna sulcosa)
- Frog Shells (Bursidae) - They are distinguished from tritons by a gutter-like canal or a slit-sided tube, which cuts through the edge of the aperture at its rear end. Some are moderately size others very large. Most are coarsely ornamented with thick ribs, knobs and warty lumps. Most live on sand and rubble. Eg. Ruddy Frog Shell (Tutufa rubeta)
- Murex (Muricidae) - Another collectors' favourite, they are colourful and hugely ornamented. The corneous operculum is usually pointed at one end. Mostly found in coral reefs where they prey on other invertebrates. Eg. Venus Comb Murex (Murex Pecten) and Adusta Murex (Chicoreus brunneus).
- Babylon Shells (Buccinidae) - Small group of shells with thick, glossy, often plump shells blotched with brown. Columella is smooth and the siphonal canal is short and broad. Live mostly in shallow water on sand or mud. Eg. Spiral Babylon (Babylon spirata)
- Busycon Whelks (Melongenidae) - One of the species in this category has a left handed spiral. Most have a long siphonal canal and a smooth columella. They are limited to south-east Mexico and the eastern and southern coasts of the United States. Eg. Lighting Whelk (Busycon contrarium)
- Horse Conchs (Fasciolariidae) - Heavy shell which are high spired and with smooth columella, long siphonal canal and a thick and corneous operculum. They are carnivores. Eg. Trapezium Horse Conch (Pleuroploca trapezium)
- Olive Shells (Olividae) - Sand-dwelling group of carnivorous mollusks. Has a short spire with a channelled suture, long aperture and callused columella with prominent folds. Widely distributed in tropical seas. Eg. Tent olive (Oliva porphyria Linnaeus) and Red-mouth Olive (Oliva miniacea)
- Vases (Vasidae) - Thick and heavy shells. The siphonal canal is prominent and the columella has three to four folds. Common on reef flats. They are carnivorous animals that live in sand and coral debris or sand among rocks. Eg. Common Pacific Vase (Vasum turbinellum)
- Harps (Harpidae) - Voluptous shape with exquisite patterns and bright colouration. Live in sand and they are carnivorous. Eg. Imperial Harp (Harpa costata), Major Harp (Harpa major) and Articulate Harp (Harpa Articularis)
- Volutes (Volutidae) - The varied shapes and colourful patterns of the volutes make them among the favourite for the collectors. Most are solid and heavy, but they vary considerably in size and appearance. They occur in warm and temperate seas. Most burrow in sand and all are carnivorous. Eg. Crowned Baler (Melo aethiopica), Australian Baler (Melo amphora) and Noble Volute (Cymbiola nobilis)
- Cones (Conidae) - Conical in shape. Heavy or light, flat-topped or v-shaped topped, these shells are among collectors' favourite. They varies in colours and size. All are carnivores that live mostly in the tropics on coral reefs. Eg. Glory of the sea (Conus gloriamaris), Textile Cone (Conus textile), Geographic Cone (Conus geographus), Striated Cone (Conus striatus) and Miles Cone (Conus Miles)