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Elephant snail

Scientific name: Scutus antipodes
Phylum Mollusca

Distribution: Rocky shores and reef, 0 - 20 m depth from WA to NSW and around Tasmania.

Description: Adults grow to approx 15-16cm in length and are herbivorous. It looks like a large, slug-like animal with a reduced white shell, often hidden under folds of skin. As with other molluscs with a shell the mantle secretes the shell and it grows gradually adding layers to the outer most edges of its large, flat, white, shield-shaped shell.

Habitat: Large numbers are found under rocks in shallow water where moisture is present. They can tolerate mild exposure on the low tide. It is a herbivore and moves quite actively when disturbed.

Ecology: The black elephant snail doesn’t look at all like other limpets but is actually a false limpet. The mantle slit is associated with the position of the animals rectum, and in life play as part in directing the respiratory and excretory currents to preserve respiration and sanitation.

Status: The black elephant snail is commonly found in marine protected areas such as rocky shores. It is not considered to have a vulnerable status but may be effected if it cannot form it’s protective calcium carbonate half shell. Certainly its habitat is greatly effected on rocky shores where boulders and rocks are disturbed, turned over and habitat and the inhabitants exposed to the elements from which they are trying to protect themselves.

Image from skeeterdav2002 at www.flickr.com

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