Lettered Olive Snail

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Project Description

Lettered Olive Snail

Oliva sayana


Range/Geographical Distribution: North Carolina to Gulf of Mexico and Brazil.

Habitat: Nearshore waters on shallow sand flats and near inlets.

Description: Shiny, cylindrical shell with chestnut-brown scrawled markings on it.  Has a low, pointed spire, four or five body whorls, and no operculum.

Size: Can reach three inches in length. 

Food: Coquina and other small, smooth-surfaced clams. 

Breeding: Lays 20-50 eggs on the sand in transparent capsules.  Eggs develop into veliger larvae within a week. The veligers break out of their capsule and live in a planktonic form prior to developing into adults.

Predators:  Birds, fish, and crabs.

Conservation Status: No legal status.

Interesting Facts: Native Americans made necklaces of these handsome shells and in the early 1900s they were collected and strung to make portières (door-curtains) to sell to tourists.  Sometimes common Atlantic slipper shells (Crepidula fornicata) can be found attached to the surface of a lettered olive, riding piggyback.

On the Coast: Lettered olive shells commonly wash up on Georgia’s beaches and are a prized favorite of beachcombers.

Project Details


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