How to Distinguish from Similar Species: Large Nucella lamellosa have a similar shape but do not have a closed siphonal canal, the tooth on the outer lip of the aperture, nor do the varices form into three large flanges as seen in this species. In oyster beds, Ceratostoma inornatum, which has a duller shell ,may have more or less than 3 varices, and in which the spiral cords alternate large and small, may be found. Ceratostoma nuttalli, which is found south of Piont Conception in California, is smaller, has nodules on the shell, has smaller varices, and has a single large axial rib between the varices.
Geographical Range: Sitka (Alaska) to San Diego; uncommon south of Point Conception (CA)
Depth Range: Low intertidal zone and subtidal to 60 m.
Habitat: Found on rocky faces near barnacles and bivalves. Avoids sand and mud. Most common in areas of strong surf--is not found in protected waters in Alaska (but can commonly be found around Rosario)
Biology/Natural History: Ceratostoma foliatum is a carnivorous snail that eats mainly barnacles such as Semibalanus cariosus and Balanus glandula, and bivalves such as Protothaca staminea, Mytilus californianus, and Mytilus trossulus. It drills through their protective shell with its radula. After drilling through the shell Ceratostoma foliatum injects digestive enzymes into the prey's body cavity and sucks out the dissolved tissue. Sexes are separate and may form large groups during spring copulation. After copulation, females lay their eggs in a communal mass nearby in stalked, yellow, flattened egg cases about 13 mm long, attached to rocks. Each capsule has about 50 orange eggs and each female lays about 40 capsules per year. Larval stages occur within the capsule, and the snails hatch as juveniles after 4-10 months. Matures in about 4 years and can live 16 years. Individuals older than this may have shells which have eroded so much at the apex that they are shorter than younger individuals (16-year olds may be only 5-6 cm long).
Flora and Fairbanks (as Pterorytis foliatus)
Kozloff, 1987, 1996
Smith and Carlton, 1975
General Notes and Observations: Locations, abundances, unusual behaviors, etc.
on this species seem to have several functions. According to
project "Determination of functions of the varices
on C. foliatum" by Mark Sauser and Deanna Berger at
the Walla Walla
College Marine Station in summer 2001, this species turns its shell so
that the varices
provide enhanced shading to the shell when in bright light.
cause the shell to land aperture
downwards when dropped through water. Shells from which the varices
were removed most often landed aperture
Authors and Editors of Page:
Nathaniel Charbonneau (2002): Created original page
Edited by: Dave Cowles 8-2002, 2005, 2007
Edited by Hans Helmstetler 1-2003