ACMAEA TESTUDINALIS - The Tortoise Shell Limpet is found clinging to rocks everywhere along our ocean shores in tides pools and shallow subtidal areas. They cling just like a suction cup and are amazingly difficult to remove from their rock. Really it is best to leave them attached. If you would like to collect them, look for their empty shells among the shore debris or, better still, take a picture. If you are really patient, you can watch them slowly graze across their home rock. Can you follow their track?
EXPLORE: Creatures from the Gulf of Maine Shores - The Limpet
This series of articles provides information and resources for common marine plants and animals found along the North Atlantic coast. Great resources for explorers and teachers.
Tortoise Shell Limpet
Class: Gastropoda - Snails and slugs
Recent names: Tectura tessulata, Acmaea testudinalis, Collisella tessulata
Distribution: Occurs throughout the Gulf of Maine and north to Newfoundland and Labrador. Common in rocky tide pools and shallow subtidal shores on suitable habitat.
Habitat: Found on the mid-shore into the sublittoral (to depths of 50 m) on the undersurface and sides of rocks. Abundant in tide pools.
Description: A conical limpet with the apex anterior and smooth shell with fine radiating ridges. The external shell is dull white, grey, brown or green with a reddish-brown mottling. The mantle edge is copper-green with two rows of fine tentacles.
Key identification features
• Small, up to 25 mm in length.
• Apex on anterior half of shell.
• Smooth shell with fine radiating ribs.
• Shell dull white, grey or brown with reddish brown lines radiating from apex.
Sources: A. MacKay, Marine Research Associates Ltd.
Gosner, K.L. A Field Guide to the Atlantic Seashore. Houghton Mifflin
The Rocky Shore is Home to the Limpet
As you can see in the following diagram of a typical rocky shoreline, our North Atlantic coast is remarkably ordered with various easily distinguished zones that are occupied by a distinctive set of plants and animals.
The limpets are found attached firmly to rocks ranging from the lower part of the intertidal area to considerable depth in localities where there is suitable habitat. They tend to stay somewhat hidden along the lower margins and under their chosen rocky home ... well away from the general view and the light.
Review the profile of a rocky shore. Find "Acmaea" and you will be able to see the zones in which this species occurs. Tide pools are really interesting since they are located in the intertidal area, but contain many of the creatures that are only found in deeper water below the low tide mark. Limpets are particular common in tide pools and runoff streams.
Where Acmaea occurs
Art MacKay Images
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Common Marine Life of the Gulf of Maine - The Field Guide
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Common Marine Life of the Gulf of Maine