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Central and South Florida Gastropod Seashell Identification Guide: Tritons

This guide should serve to teach the public how to identify local Central and South Florida gastropod seashells.


(Family) Ranellidae

Distinguishing Characteristics: The tritons are covered with a very hairy periostracum. Their aperture is often surrounded by pronounced teeth.

Habitat: These snails are usually reef dwellers, and can be found up to 300 feet. 

Diet: The tritons are predatory, feeding on molluscs but most often on starfish.

Scientific Name:  Charonia variegata

Common Name:  Triton's Trumpet

Distinguishing Characteristics:  Large mottled shell colored in shades from cream to dark brown.  Whorls are uneven.  Inner lip has white ridges, while the outer lip has small white teeth.  Siphonal canal relatively short compared to its relatives.  Maximum size 18 inches.

Interesting Facts:  Also known as the Atlantic Triton or the Atlantic Triton's Trumpet.  This species can have a variety of different shapes and colors, hence the species name.  Relatives of the triton can be turned into trumpets.  The species has become rare due to overcollecting.  They're also more opportunistic than their relatives, feeding on sea cucumbers, sea stars, tube worms, and other molluscs.

Scientific Name:  Monoplex pilearis

Common Name:  Atlantic Hairy Triton

Distinguishing Characteristics:  Exterior covered with small beadlike protrusions.  Ridges on exterior rounded.  Brown spots between white teeth on aperture. Maximum size around 3-4 inches.

Interesting Facts:  The Atlantic Hairy Triton is covered with thick, hairlike protrusions that give this species its common name.  The hair may be missing if found while beachcombing.

Scientific Name:  Distorsio clathrata

Common Name:  Atlantic Distorsio

Distinguishing Characteristics:  Exterior crisscrossed with threads in a netlike pattern.  Aperture teeth greatly developed, giving the aperture an irregular appearance.  Maximum size 3 inches.

Scientific Name:  Distorsio constricta mcgintyi

Common Name:  Florida Distorsio

Distinguishing Characteristics:  Similar in appearance to the Atlantic Distorsio.  The whorls can appear distorted and irregular, with the exterior crosshatching coarsely defined.  The wall around the aperture often covered with small bumps or warts.  Maximum size 2.5 inches.

Interesting Facts:  Also known as Mcginty's Distorsio.

Scientific Name:  Gutturnium muricinum

Common Name:  Knobbed Triton

Distinguishing Characteristics:  Aperture surrounded by a smooth, flat shield.  There is often a slight bend at the very tip of the siphonal canal.  Maximum size around 2 inches.

Interesting Facts:  Sometimes also called a Knobbly Triton.

Charonia variegata

Triton's Trumpet

Monoplex pilearis

Atlantic Hairy Triton

Distorsio clathrata

Atlantic Distorsio

Distorsio constricta mcgintyi

Florida Distorsio

Gutturnium muricinum

Knobbed Triton