EXPLORE: Creatures from the Gulf of Maine Shores - The Limpet

by artmackay

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.

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?

Art MacKay

Tortoise Shell Limpet

Phylum: Mollusca
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
Where Acmaea occurs
Art MacKay Images
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Common Marine Life of the Gulf of Maine - The Field Guide

This is based on one page from the publication. You can review the entire publication at Scribd.com

Common Marine Life of the Gulf of Maine
Common Marine Life of the Gulf of Maine
Updated: 02/21/2016, artmackay
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dustytoes on 03/02/2016

I have some slipper shells in my collection. I look forward to your page about them!

frankbeswick on 03/02/2016

I am looking forward to the next article, as I find the coast and its creatures fascinating. I am impressed with your diagram, which is of a professional standard.

artmackay on 03/01/2016

Sounds great. You'll enjoy the one on Slipper shells (Crepidula). I'll dig it out for the next round.

dustytoes on 03/01/2016

Cool video! I write a seashell blog and I'll keep this wonderful page in mind when blogging so I can link to it. I don't think I've written about limpets.

frankbeswick on 02/19/2016

Since childhood I have loved rock pools, and even now at 65 if I visit the shore I can be found looking at the rock pool life.

jptanabe on 02/19/2016

I remember limpets from my childhood in Scotland! They were always in the tidal pools and on the rocks along the shore.

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