Limpet pictures: Living limpets attached to rock amongst seaweed holdfasts at Ringstead Bay, Dorset, UK on the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site (1).

This is some basic information about LIMPETS  – one of the most common types of British marine molluscs and a frequent find on most rocky shores. 

Seashore creatures: Molluscs: Gastropods: Limpets

Limpets Patella spp.

  1. The cone shaped shells of limpets are familiar to most people.
  2. Although there is no coiled shell these molluscs are related to the Gastropods like winkles and whelks but are a more primitive form.
  3. The word Gastropod literally means stomach-foot – because these animals move around more or less on their belly.
  4. They eat by scraping the algal film (slime) from rock surfaces and they also munch directly on macro-algae (large seaweeds).
  5. In the mouth is a tongue-like, rasp-like, structure called a radula covered in rows of teeth with which it scrapes and files away at its food.
  6. We are accustomed to seeing limpets at low tide, stuck on rocks, and sedentary.
  7. However, when the tide is in and they are covered with water, they move around to feed – but they always return to the same place on the rock from which they started out.
  8. Over the years, the limpet shell wears away an impression in the rock at its home base – partly through mechanical abrasion of the shell against the rock and partly through the effects of chemicals in the waste products.
  9. You can see some of these circular depressions, representing the places once occupied by living limpets, in the photograph below.
  10. Where the limpet has roamed around feeding, you can often find the marks left in the algal film by the repetitious scraping, first to the right and then to the left. You can see some of these curious zig-zag markings in the post Patterns made by grazing limpets.

For MORE INFORMATION about the common species of limpet you can look at the Marine Life Information Network site run by the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom.

Click onPatella vulgata and Patella depressa.

BOOK REFERENCES to limpets include: 

  1. Barrett, J. and Yonge C. M. (1958 but reprinted many times) Collins Pocket Guide to the Seashore, Collins, ISBN 0 0 219321 3, page 130.
  2. Gibson, C. (2008) Pocket Nature Seashore, Dorling Kindersley, ISBN 978 1 4053 2862 3, page 120.
  3. Graham, A. (1971) British Prosobranch and Other Operculate Gastropod Molluscs, Keys and notes for the identification of the species, Synopses of the British Fauna No. 2, The Linnaean Society of London, Academic Press, ISBN 0-12-294850-5, page 40.
  4. Hayward, P. J.  and Ryland J. S. (1995) Handbook of the Marine Fauna of North-West Europe, , Oxford University Press, ISBN 0 19 854055 8 (Pbk), page 502.
  5. Hayward, P., Nelson-Smith, A. and Shields, C. (1996) Sea shore of Britain and Europe, Collins Pocket Guide, , ISBN 0 00 21995, page 180.

Pictures of limpets: A cluster of living limpets in the relative shelter of a shallow depression in the cracked, eroding and exposed horizontal rock pavement at Kimmeridge Bay, Dorset, UK on the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site (2)

Limpet pictures: Living limpets on the cracked, eroding and exposed horizontal rock pavement at Kimmeridge Bay, Dorset, UK on the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site (3)

Limpet pictures: Living limpets, and circular depressions worn away by limpet occupancy, among the polygonal cracks on the horizontal intertidal rock pavement at Kimmeridge Bay, Dorset, UK on the Jurassc Coast World Heritage Site (4)

[This is a revision of a post first published 12 February 2009].


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