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Nassarius: Wikis


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Nassarius tiarula
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Mollusca
Class: Gastropoda
(unranked): clade Caenogastropoda
(unranked): clade Neogastropoda
Superfamily: Buccinoidea
Family: Nassariidae
Genus: Nassarius
Dumeril, 1806

See text.

Nassarius, commonly called nassa mud snails,(USA), dog whelks (UK), or elephant snails, is a genus of conch-like, medium-sized sea snails, marine gastropod molluscs in the family Nassariidae.



Species within this genus are found worldwide. They can grow from 15.2-16.2 mm.


These snails usually live on mud flats or sand flats, intertidally or subtidally.

Life habits

Most Nassarius species are very active scavengers, feeding on such things as dead fish, etc. They often burrow into marine substrates and then wait with their siphon sticking out into the water, until they smell nearby food.

Shell description

The shells of species in this genus have a relatively high spire and a siphonal notch. Typically a cafe au lait color.


A live individual of a Nassarius species on an aquarium wall, reflected in the glass

The animal has a long siphon.

Human use



Several beads made from Nassarius gibbosulus shells are thought to be the earliest known forms of personal adornment, or even jewelry. Two shell beads found in Skhul Cave on the slopes of Mount Carmel, Israel are thought to be 100,000 years old, whilst another found at Oued Djebbana, Algeria is believed to be 90,000 years old. A further group of pierced shells, some with red ochre, has been recovered from the Aterian levels at Grotte des Pigeons, Taforalt, Morocco; these Nassarius gibbosulus beads have been securely dated to about 82,000 years ago.[1]

All these examples predate several 75,000 year old Nassarius kraussianus beads which were found at Blombos Cave, South Africa (including some colored with red ochre). These beads had previously been thought to be the oldest examples of jewelry.[2]

Modern uses

Nassarius vibex is a species which is often selected for marine aquaria. It is often confused with Nassarius obsoletus, a cooler water snail less suited to tropical marine aquarium temperatures. In aquaria, the nassarius is considered nearly indispensable for keeping sand beds clean and healthy, as they tend to burrow and plow through the upper layer in a conch-like fashion, keeping algae and detritus from building up visibly on the surface.

The shells of various species of Nassarius are popular with shell collectors, and are sometimes used in jewellry and other forms of decoration.


Species in the genus Nassarius include[3]:

  • Nassarius acutus (Say, 1822) - sharp nassa
  • Nassarius albus (Say, 1826) - antilles nassa, white nassa
  • Nassarius angulicostis (Pilsbry and Lowe, 1932)
  • Nassarius antillarum (d'Orbigny, 1842) - Antilles nassa
  • Nassarius aoteanus (Linnaeus, 1758)
  • Nassarius arcularius Finlay, 1927
  • Nassarius catallus (Dall, 1908)
  • Nassarius cerritensis (Arnold, 1903)
  • Nassarius consensus (Ravenel, 1861) - striate nassa
  • Nassarius crematus (Hinds, 1844)
  • Nassarius cremmatus
  • Nassarius delosi (Woodring, 1946)
  • Nassarius ephamillus (Watson, 1882)
  • Nassarius fossatus (Gould, 1850) - channeled nassa
  • Nassarius fraterculus (Dunker, 1860) - Japanese nassa
  • Nassarius gallegosi Strong and Hertlein, 1937
  • Nassarius gibbosulus (Linnaeus, 1758)
  • Nassarius glans particeps (Hedley, 1915)
  • Nassarius graniferus
  • Nassarius guaymasensis (Pilsbry and Lowe, 1932)
  • Nassarius hotessieri (d'Orbigny, 1845) - miniature nassa
  • Nassarius howardae Chace, 1958
  • Nassarius incrassatus (Stroem, 1768)
  • Nassarius insculptus (Carpenter, 1864) - smooth western nassa
  • Nassarius iodes (Dall, 1917)
  • Nassarius limacinus (Dall, 1917)
  • Nassarius luteostoma Broderip and Sowerby, 1829
  • Nassarius mendicus (Gould, 1850) - lean western nassa
  • Nassarius miser (Dall, 1908)
  • Nassarius moestus (Hinds, 1844)
  • Nassarius nanus
Nassarius reticosus
  • Nassarius nigrolabra (Verrill, 1880)
  • Nassarius obsoletus (Say, 1822) - eastern mudsnail
  • Nassarius olomea Kay, 1979
  • Nassarius onchodes (Dall, 1917)
  • Nassarius pagodus (Reeve, 1844)
  • Nassarius papillosus (Gould, 1850)
  • Nassarius perpinguis (Hinds, 1844) - fat western nassa
  • Nassarius polygonatus (Lamarck, 1822)
  • Nassarius pygmaeus Lamarck, 1822
  • Nassarius reticulatus (Linnaeus, 1758)
  • Nassarius rhinetes S.S. Berry, 1953 - California nassa
  • Nassarius scissuratus (Dall, 1889) - carved nassa
  • Nassarius shaskyi Mclean, 1970
  • Nassarius spiratus (A. Adams, 1852)
  • Nassarius splendidulus (Dunker, 1846)
  • Nassarius tiarula (Kiener, 1841) - western mud nassa
  • Nassarius trivittatus (Say, 1822) - threeline mudsnail
  • Nassarius versicolor (C. B. Adams, 1852)
  • Nassarius vibex (Say, 1822) - bruised nassa


  1. ^ Bouzouggar, A., Barton, N., Vanhaeren, M., d'Errico, F., Collcutt, S., Higham, T., Hodge, E., Parfitt, S., Rhodes, E., Schwenninger, J.-L., Stringer, C., Turner, E., Ward, S., Moutmir, A. and Stambouli, A. 2007. "82,000-year-old shell beads from North Africa and implications for the origins of modern human behavior" Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, June 4, 2007;
  2. ^ Study reveals 'oldest jewellery', BBC News, 22 June 2006
  3. ^ Nassarius (TSN 74103). Integrated Taxonomic Information System.

External links


Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies


Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Supergroup: Unikonta
Cladus: Opisthokonta
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Cladus: Protostomia
Cladus: Spiralia
Cladus: Lophotrochozoa
Phylum: Mollusca
Classis: Gastropoda
Subclassis: Orthogastropoda
Superordo: Caenogastropoda
Ordo: Sorbeoconcha
Subordo: Hypsogastropoda
Infraordo: Neogastropoda
Superfamilia: Buccinoidea
Familia: Nassariidae
Subfamilia: Nassariinae
Genus: Nassarius
Subgenera: Aciculina - Alectrion - Allanassa - Jima - Cryptonassarius - Gussonea - Hinia - Nassarius - Nassodonta - Naytiopsis - Niotha - Pallacera - Profundinassa - Plicarcularia - Reticunassa - Sphaeronassa - Telasco - Uzita - Zeuxis


Nassarius Duméril, 1806


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