Marine Education Society of Australasia Home Page
banner image for Life on Australian Seashores Website

Black Keyhole Limpet, Amblychilepas nigrita


photo of Black Keyhole LimpetThe Black Keyhole Limpet's shell is a longish oblong in shape. It is flattened, with a raised front and raised rear edges. The oval hole (keyhole) is just behind the middle. The length of the hole is one fifth of shell length. Its gill filaments stick out of this hole.

The shell sculpture of the Black Keyhole Limpet consists of many fine, radial ribs, crossed by concentric growth ridges which form a lattice pattern.

The shell interior is smooth, with a strong ridge at the edge margin. The Keyhole edge also has a distinct thickened rim.

The animal is twice as long as the shell, so it cannot fit within its shell.


The Black Keyhole limpet's shell exterior is brown, grey or fawn, with irregular rays of dark brown. The shell interior is white or bluish, with pale brown rays. The animal is pink to pale brown in colour.




G. B. Sowerby, 1834, 1835




10-20(15) mm


distribution map of Black Keyhole LimpetThe Black Keyhole Limpet is endemic to southern Australia. This means that it is only found here. It occurs in temperate Australia, including New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia & Western Australia.


The Black Keyhole Limpet occurs at mid to low-tide and below, on exposed and semi-protected rocky shores. It is found under rocks and stones.


The Black Keyhole Limpet is an attractive mollusc which is easily identified by its oblong-oval shaped shell, marked with a distinctive lattice sculpture. The animal is twice as long as the shell. The animal's gills poke out through the keyhole in the shell.


It is also called Sophismalepas nigrita, or the Calloused Keyhole Limpet.

Bennett, I. (1987) W. J. Dakin's classic study: Australian Seashores. p.274, Angus & Robertson, Sydney.

Davey, K. (1998) A Photographic Guide to Seashore Life of Australia. p.76, New Holland, Sydney.

Edgar, G. J. (1997) Australian Marine Life: the plants and animals of temperate waters. p.231, Reed Books, Kew.

Marine Research Group of Victoria (1984) Coastal Invertebrates of Victoria: an atlas of selected species. p.28, Museum of Victoria, Melbourne.

Macpherson, J. H. & Gabriel, C. J. (1962) Marine Molluscs of Victoria. p.40, Melbourne University Press & The National Museum of Victoria.

Shepherd, S. A. & Thomas, I. M. (1982) Marine Invertebrates of Victoria, Pt. 2. p.542, South Australian Government Printer, Adelaide.

Wilson, B. R. & Gillett, K. (1979) A field guide to Australian Shells: Prosobranch Gastropods. p.27, A. H. & A. W. Reed, Sydney.

False Limpets

Elephant Snail
Black Keyhole Limpet

Home Page
Rocky Shores
Tidal Levels
Intertidal Zonation
Environmental Factors
Biological Factors
Feeding Relationships



photo of Keith DaveyLife on Australian Seashores
by Keith Davey (C) 2000

Learning Consultant - Media
The University of Newcastle

email at

Scientific Consultant: Phil Colman
site created 01.01.98 : updated 01.04.2000