Below are examples of snails you will likely run across if you spend any time on Oregon’s exposed shores. The photos are from northern Oregon unless noted, and my organization roughly follows Lamb and Hanby (2005). Common names are my choice. I refer to WoRMS for scientific names, and I learn a ton by browsing the natural history riches in Kozloff (1993). Biodiversity of the Central Coast’s Molluscs page contains excellent information about the species shown below. And they are covered in the books, field guides, and online resources listed at the bottom of the page.
Let the snails be upon you!
Nucella ostrina northern striped dogwinkle
Nucella ostrina is most noticeable among the acorn barnacles Balanus glandula. They’re easy to find (they’re shy but not secretive) and one of the rocky intertidal snails I most enjoy.
Nucella canaliculata channeled dogwinkle
Lirabuccinum dirum dire whelk
I haven’t run across dire whelks on northern Oregon shores. Those shown below are from sheltered Salish Sea beaches.
Nassarius fossatus channeled basket snail
Channeled nassas, as they are also known, apparently don’t overlap much with me in the northern Oregon intertidal. I don’t recall coming across a live one. Empty nassa shells, however, can be abundant, and hermit crabs frequently occupy them. Although I think the egg cases shown below are those of N. fossatus, I haven’t seen deposition, only drifted cases.
Tegula funebralis black turban
Black turbans are conspicuous and abundant. They seem more numerous on the central coast than in most northern Oregon locations.
Callianax biplicata purple olive
On exposed beaches, up your odds of finding purple olives by walking out toward the swash on a pretty low tide. When things are just right, and I don’t know exactly what that looks like, they can be startlingly abundant. But you won’t find them on every stretch of the beach; maybe try a beach with large protruding boulders, stacks, or a contoured shoreline that gives a little shelter.
Below is a collection of traces left by purple olives. It’s worth knowing what you’re looking at so you don’t have to dig them up to find what made them.
Gotshall, D. W. 2005. Guide to Marine Invertebrates, Alaska to Baja California 2nd Edition (Revised). Shoreline Press.
Harbo, R. M. 2011. Whelks to Whales: Coastal Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest. 2nd ed. Harbour Publishing Co.
Kozloff, E. N. 1993. Seashore Life of the Northern Pacific Coast. 3rd ed. University of Washington Press.
Lamb, A. and B. P. Hanby. 2005. Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest. Harbour Publishing.
Sept. J. D. 2009. The Beachcomber’s Guide to Seashore Life in the Pacific Northwest. Revised ed. Harbour Publishing.
Charbonneau, N., Helmstetler, H., and Cowles, D. (2009). Nucella ostrina (Deshayes, 1839). Invertebrates of the Salish Sea. Rosario Beach Marine Laboratory. Accessed 09/15/2022.
Cowles, D. (2005). Nucella canaliculata (Duclos, 1832). Invertebrates of the Salish Sea. Rosario Beach Marine Laboratory. Accessed 09/15/2022.
Cowles, D. (2006). Nassarius fossatus (Gould, 1850). Invertebrates of the Salish Sea. Rosario Beach Marine Laboratory. Accessed 09/15/2022.
Cowles, D. (2004). Chlorostoma funebralis (A. Adams, 1855). Invertebrates of the Salish Sea. Rosario Beach Marine Laboratory. Accessed 09/15/2022.
Cowles, D. (2006). Callianax biplicata (Sowerby, 1825). Invertebrates of the Salish Sea. Rosario Beach Marine Laboratory. Accessed 09/15/2022.
Biodiversity of the Central Coast’s Molluscs page contains excellent information on most of the snails shown above.
I updated this page on September 15, 2022.