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Home > Northwest Shells & Marine Life > PNW Shells & Marine Life Photos > Gastropods >  Gastropods - Buccinidae

Click on photo to enlarge.  Scale line in photo equals 1cm unless otherwise specified.
* Species which are commonly encountered on the beach.

Ancistrolepis eucosmius eucosmius
southeast Bering Sea
Ancistrolepis eucosmius eucosmius
(Dall, 1891)

Corded Whelk
subtidal, 62-1921m          size to 35mm
SE Alaska to Sea of Okhotsk, possibly to Oregon
This species has regular spiral cords.
Beringius eyerdami
Swiftsure Bank, off Port Renfrew, BC                         off Cape Flattery, WA
Beringius eyerdami A.G. Smith, 1959
Eyerdam's Whelk
subtidal to 180m          size to 12cm
central California to southern Alaska

This shell may be relatively smooth or have very defined spiral cording.  This species was named after one of our club's charter members, Walter J. Eyerdam.  A.G. Smith was also a club member, who joined during the first year of the club.

Beringius kennicottii (Dall, 1871)
Kennicott's Neptune
subtidal, 3-50m          size to 15cm
northern Washington to southern Alaska
This species has subdued spiral cording and prominent, rounded axial ridges.
(synonyms - Jumala kennicottii, Beringius incisus, Volutopsis rotundus, Beringion kennicotti)

Buccinum baeri
Petersburg, AK, intertidal, with eggs

Buccinum glaciale Buccinum glaciale
                                                     southeast Alaska                                              Petersburg, AK       
                                                                                This specimen was labeled B. morchianum.
Buccinum glaciale Linnaeus, 1767
intertidal to subtidal          size to 90mm
circumpolar, reaching south to southern Alaska, Japan, northeast Canada and northern Europe
This is occasionally found intertidally.  It is a highly variable species which has resulted in a number of synonyms.  It generally has two or three strong spiral cords and sometimes some axial ribbing.  Spire height and shell proportions may vary.  The color may be cream to brown to bluish-gray.  The aperture is glossy and may be cream to purplish-brown.
(synonyms - Buccinum morchianum, Buccinum hancocki, Buccinum donavani, Buccinum ekblawi, Buccinum carinatum, Buccinum parallelum, Buccinum groenlandicum, Buccinum cnismatopleura)

Buccinum plectrum
off Kodiak Island, AK
Buccinum plectrum
Stimpson, 1865

Sinuous Whelk
intertidal to 600m          size to 10cm
northern Washington to northern Alaska;
circumboreal; northwest Atlantic
This is infrequently found intertidally.  The axial ribs are wavy and only evident at the top of each whorl.   It is light in color.

Buccinum baeri (Middendorff, 1848)
Baer's Buccinum

intertidal to subtidal          southeast Alaska to central Alaska          size to 25mm
This is somewhat common to find intertidally in Alaska.  Look for it under large rocks.  The shell may be smooth to lightly sculptured with spiral ridges.  It has a thin brown periostracum over a light tan to dark grayish shell.  The aperture is glossy reddish-brown.
It can be found in similar areas as Volutharpa ampullacea which has a similar appearance.  This shell is sturdier with a taller spire and smaller aperture.  See Volutharpa at bottom of page.

Lirabuccinum dirum (Reeve, 1846)
Dire Whelk
intertidal to 35m          southern California to northern Alaska          size to 50mm
This is commonly found intertidally.  The shell is usually gray to dark brown, but the odd orange one may be found.  It has low spiral ridges and axial grooves which may extend the length of the shell or only the top portion of the whorls.  On some beaches it frequently has the slipper shell, Crepidula adunca, attached.
(previous name - Searlesia dira)
Beringius kennicottii Beringius kennicottii
                       Alaska                                          off Kodiak Island, AK

Lirabuccinum dirum Lirabuccinum dirum Lirabuccinum dirum Lirabuccinum dirum
Whiskey Creek Beach, WA          Ketchikan, AK, subtidal                              Neah Bay, WA, intertidal                  Port Hardy, BC, unusually orange

Lirabuccinum dirum
Hammond Bay, BC, intertidal, with eggs

Buccinum viridum
off west coast of Vancouver Island, BC
Buccinum viridum
Dall, 1889
subtidal to 757m          size to 50mm
southern California to Bering Sea, both coasts
This is a delicate shell with very fine, closely spaced spiral lines.  It is white with a thin, olive-brown periostracum. 
Buccinum strigillatum
offshore of Coos Bay, OR
Buccinum strigillatum
Dall, 1891
subtidal          size to 50mm
southern California to at least northern Washington
The shell is white with stiff, hairy periostracum.  There are numerous low, spiral ridges
Buccinum baeri Buccinum baeri Buccinum baeri
                   Petersburg, AK                                                  Sitka, AK                                                        Petersburg, AK, intertidal

Neptunea lyrata Neptunea lyrata
      Petersburg, AK                    Petersburg, AK,very low intertidal
Neptunea lyrata (Gmelin, 1791)
Ridged Whelk
intertidal to1500m          size to 20cm
southern California to northern Alaska
This is rarely found intertidally and then only in Alaska.  The shell may be light to dark brown.  Juveniles may be purplish-brown.  It has prominent spiral cords with fine lines in the interspaces.  Neptune species have distinctive looking egg masses.  This species lays its eggs in flat, circular masses.  These may be found in the low interidal even if the snail is not present.

Neptunea stilesi
La Perouse Bank, off northwest WA
Neptunea stilesi
 A.G. Smith, 1968

Inflated Whelk
subtidal, 60-250m          size to 11cm
Washington to northern BC
This is a light colored shell with very low spiral cording.  This is another of our local buccinids named after an early member, Everett C. Stiles, by another member, Allyn G. Smith.  


Family Buccinidae

Neptunea amianta Neptunea amianta
     off west coast of Vancouver Island, BC                      well offshore northwest WA
Neptunea amianta (Dall, 1890)
Alaska Neptune
subtidal to 757m          size to12cm
southern California to southeast Alaska; Japan
This is a thin white shell with delicate spiral cords.

Neptunea humboltiana
offshore west coast Vancouver Island, BC
Neptunea humboltiana
A.G. Smith, 1971
subtidal to at least 237m          size to 16cm
California to BC
This shell has fine spiral cords.  As it matures, it can develop a flared aperture.

Neptunea pribiloffensis
off Kodiak Island, AK
Neptunea pribiloffensis
(Dall, 1919)
Pribiloff Whelk
intertidal to 91m          Oregon to Alaska          size to 20cm
This species has a wide body whorl and spiral cording which can vary in size from specimen to specimen.  It has a brown periostracum.  The shell is quite variable.  The snail lays egg masses which look like upright corncobs.  see article "Of Corncobs and Flat Artichokes"
(synonyms - Neptunea intersculpta pribiloffensis, Neptunea meridionalis, Chrysodomus vinosus)

Latisipho hallii
Latisipho hallii
(Dall, 1873)

Hall's Whelk
intertidal to 1818m          size to 60mm
southern California to northern Alaska
This is infrequently found intertidally at the northern end of its range.  This species has a dark brown periostracum and little shell sculpture.  It is one of the few readily identifiable north Pacific Colus.
(previous name - Colus hallii; synonyms - Helicofusus luridus)

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This page last revised: 5-25-2019

Buccinum scalariforme
off Sitka, AK
Buccinum scalariforme

Moller, 1842
Ladder Whelk
subtidal, 4-100m          size to 89mm
 circumboreal, reaching south to Washington, Maine, northern Europe & Siberia
This is very similar in appearance to B. plectrum.  The wavy, axial ribs on this species are smaller and more numerous.  It also has spiral sculpture of microscopic, beaded threads.

Colus cf. griseus
off west coast of Vancouver Island, BC
Colus cf. griseus (Dall, 1889)
Gray Whelk
subtidal          size to 30mm
range unknown, at least Washington
This is a rare species.
This specimen was labelled Colus griseus, but the identification may be in doubt.  The Colus of the northeast Pacific are highly variable and not well studied.  Positive identification of most of the species is extremely difficult. 

Volutharpa ampullacea Volutharpa ampullacea Volutharpa ampullacea
                  Petersburg, AK                                             Petersburg, AK, intertidal                    Petersburg, AK, intertidal, with eggs
Volutharpa ampullacea (Middendorff, 1848)
Big-Mouth Whelk
intertidal to subtidal          British Columbia through Bering Sea; Japan & Korea          size to 62mm
This is somewhat common to find intertidally in at least southeast Alaska.  The shell is gray-brown with a thick, brown periostracum.  The aperture is glossy.  Even when disturbed, the animal quickly comes back out of its shell and reveals a large speckled body.
The specimens found in northeast Asia are technically a different subspecies.
(previous name - Bullia ampullacea)

Neptunea tabulata Neptunea tabulata
  Victoria Harbor, BC                Victoria Harbor, BC
Neptunea tabulata (Baird, 1863)
Tabled Whelk
subtidal, 30-400m          size to 11cm
southern California to southern Alaska; Japan
This is one Neptune that is easy to identify.  It has deeply channeled shoulders and fine spiral ribs.  The shell is light in color with a dark brown periostracum.

Neptunea phoenicea
off Lund, BC
Neptunea phoenicea
(Dall, 1907)
Phoenician Whelk
subtidal          size to 11cm
central Oregon to southern Alaska
This shell is lightly corded and somewhat thin.  The color is usually golden tan.
(synonyms - Neptunea staphylifius, Neptunea lyrata phoenicea)

The Neptuneas can be a difficult group to identify to species.  Some of these may be forms of the same species.  Many of them are under study and it is possible that some of these names will change in the future.  This will likely occur slowly as they are predominantly deepwater species and hard to obtain for study.

Neptunea smirnia Neptunea smirnia
         Puget Sound, WA                          Possession Sound, WA
Neptunea smirnia (Dall, 1919)
Smirnia Neptune
subtidal, 100-183m          size to 90mm
north Washington to south Alaska
The shell may be whitish to chocolate brown.  The last two whorls are smooth but the early whorls may exhibit low, spiral cords.