shelled snails text index | photo index
Phylum Mollusca > Class Gastropoda
Family Nassariidae
updated Aug 2020
if you learn only 3 things about them ...
These tiny snails are scavengers. When you see a dead thing, look for them!
The siphon of a whelk can be as long as its body.
Sometimes, a tiny sea anemone hitches a ride on the shell of a living whelk.

Where seen?
Whelks are commonly seen on many of our shores. On sandy or muddy shores and among seagrasses. Most whelks live in shallow waters, often in large groups. They are sometimes also called Nassa mud snails or Dog whelks. These small snails are among the busiest creatures you might come across at low tide, as they try to beat one another to any fresh dead animals left on the shore. When not foraging, whelks hide in the sand.

Features: About 2cm. Whelks have tough thick shells. They have a long siphon and a large organ near the siphon (called the osphradium) that are used to detect chemicals released by dead animals. The fleshy siphon is extended out of a little notch in the tip of the shell. The siphon of a whelk can be as long as its body! They also use the long siphon to breathe as they burrow in the sand. They have long slender tentacles bearing eyes, and the back of the large foot has a pair of tentacles. Whelks can also drill through shells.

With a large barnacle on the shell.
Changi, May 08

Burrowing just beneath the sand
with siphon sticking out.
Changi, Aug 05

With a pair of tiny sea anemone hitch-hikers.
Chek Jawa, Apr 04
Whelk food: Whelks are active scavengers and often seen busily foraging in pools at the change of the tides. A choice morsel such as a dead crab or fish is a magnet for these snails which hurry as fast as they can to the feast. They have been described as "extremely bold and agile".

Whelk friends: Often, a tiny sea anemone hitches a ride on the shell of a whelk! The anemone probably benefits from the whelk's left overs, and avoids being permanently buried in the sediments. It is not certain if the whelk gets anything in return. Barnacles may sometimes also be found on the shells of large living whelks.

Human uses: Although abundant, they are not much collected. Locally, they may be used as food or bait, and the shells sometimes used for shell craft.

Whelks cleaning out a recently dead snail
while a hermit crab waits patiently.
Tanah Merah, Feb 07

Whelk Joy! Dead fish!
Chek Jawa, Sep 03

A small fish all to itself.
Sisters Island, Jan 10

Some Whelks on Singapore shores


Unidentified whelks on Singapore shores
On wildsingapore flickr

Family Nassariidae recorded for Singapore
from Tan Siong Kiat and Henrietta P. M. Woo, 2010 Preliminary Checklist of The Molluscs of Singapore.
^from WORMS.
+Other additions (Singapore Biodiversity Records, etc)

  Family Nassariidae
  Cyllene pulchella

Hebra subspinosa

+Nassarius acuticostus
Nassarius arcularia
+Nassarius biendongensis
Nassarius bimaculosus
Nassarius castus
Nassarius coronatus
Nassarius comptus
Nassarius concinnus
Nassarius crematus
Nassarius crenoliratus

Nassarius echinatus
(Prickly whelk)
Nassarius exulatus
Nassarius festivus
Nassarius foveolatus
Nassarius glans
Nassarius globosus
Nassarius harpularia
Nassarius hepaticus
Nassarius himeroessa
Nassarius jacksonianus
(Mud whelk)
Nassarius javanus
Nassarius leptospirus
Nassarius limnaeiformis
(Speckled whelk)
Nassarius livescens
(Common whelk)
Nassarius luridus=^Nassarius graphiterus
Nassarius margaritifer
Nassarius mitralis
Nassarius nodifer
Nassarius olivaceus
(Olive whelk)
Nassarius pauperus=^Nassarius pauper
Nassarius praematuratus
Nassarius pullus
(Black whelk)
Nassarius quadrasi
Nassarius sinusigerus
Nassarius siquijorensis
Nassarius stolatus
Nassarius succinctus
Nassarius teretiusculus
(Lined whelk)



  • Ng Hiong Eng & Chan Sow Yan. 28 Apr 2017. Record of three marine snails from the Singapore Strait: Nassarius acuticostus. Singapore Biodiversity Records 2017: 50.
  • Tan Siong Kiat. 9 May 2014. First record of Nassarius biendongensis from Singapore. Singapore Biodiversity Records 2014: 124-125
  • Tan Siong Kiat and Henrietta P. M. Woo, 2010 Preliminary Checklist of The Molluscs of Singapore (pdf), Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, National University of Singapore.
  • Tan, K. S. & L. M. Chou, 2000. A Guide to the Common Seashells of Singapore. Singapore Science Centre. 160 pp.
  • Wee Y.C. and Peter K. L. Ng. 1994. A First Look at Biodiversity in Singapore. National Council on the Environment. 163pp.
  • Ng, P. K. L. & Y. C. Wee, 1994. The Singapore Red Data Book: Threatened Plants and Animals of Singapore. The Nature Society (Singapore), Singapore. 343 pp.
  • Bunjamin Dharma. 1988. Indonesian shells (Siput dan Kerang Indonesia). PT Sarana Graha. Indonesia. 111 pp.
  • Abbott, R. Tucker, 1991. Seashells of South East Asia. Graham Brash, Singapore. 145 pp.
links | references | about | email Ria
Spot errors? Have a question? Want to share your sightings? email Ria I'll be glad to hear from you!
wildfactsheets website©ria tan 2008