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Phylum Mollusca > Class Gastropoda > Family Volutidae
Noble volute
Cymbiola nobilis
Family Volutidae
updated Sep 2020
if you learn only 3 things about it ...
It is among the large snails you might see on our shores.
It is carnivorous. Its prey include smaller snails living beneath the sand!
Many volutes are threatened by over-collection as food and for their shells.

Where seen? This large, beautifully marked snail is sometimes encountered on sandy areas near seagrasses and coral rubble on some of our shores. It is more commonly seen moving above the surface at night, and is usually buried during the day. According to the Singapore Red Data Book, this beautiful snail is restricted to our part of the world, in particular, Singapore and Peninsular Malaysia. Empty shells of dead noble volutes are quickly taken over by large hermit crabs.

Features: 12-20cm. Shell thick heavy, conical. Shell orange, yellow or beige with red or brown zig-zag patterns. Sometimes all black. A wide variety of patterns can be seen, although in some, the pattern may be obscured by encrusting lifeforms. No operculum. Body large fleshy, black with bright orange or yellow spots. It has a long siphon that sticks out above the sand when the animal is buried.

Chek Jawa, Jun 05

Underside, no operculum.

Burrowing with siphon sticking out.
Changi, Jun 13
What does it eat? This predator eats molluscs seeking out buried prey with its siphon and encloses the prey in its huge foot then waits. When the exhausted bivalve opens up to breathe (which can take several days!), the snail sticks its proboscis in and rasps the flesh of its prey with its radula. While it may hunt from the surface, it often burrows to eat their prey under the sand.

Noble volute hunting down a Big brown mactra clam that eventually escaped.
Pulau Semakau, Mar 08

Attempting to eat a Fan clam?
Changi, Jun 13
A clam using its foot to leap away from a Noble volute.
Big brown mactra clam (Mactra grandis) escapes from a Noble volute (Cymbiola nobilis)
Baby nobles: Mama noble volutes lay large egg capsules. Each capsule about 10cm long, oval with angular bumps, translucent white to beige or yellowish. The capsules are usually stacked up to form a cylindrical, generally oval shape and the entire assembly attached to a hard, embedded object such as coral rubble. Each capsule contains many eggs, but only one or a few develop, the survivor having eaten the others. The eggs hatch and undergo metamorphosis within the egg capsules, emerging as tiny crawling snails. Because there is no free-swimming larval stage the snail has a restricted range and local populations can be wiped out by over-collection.

A much smaller one riding on the
back of a bigger one. Prelude to mating?

Pulau Sekudu, Aug 13

Laying eggs
Pulau Semakau, Mar 07

Baby volute!
Pulau Semakau, Mar 08
Photo shared by Toh Chay Hoon on her flickr.
Human uses: Called 'kilah' in Malay, the Noble volute is edible. It is also 'often collected for its attractive shell.

Status and threats: The Noble volute is listed as 'Vulnerable' on the Red List of threatened animals of Singapore due to habitat loss. It was previously abundant in Singapore but is now considered vulnerable due to habitat degradation and overcollection for food and for its attractive shell. Like other creatures of the intertidal zone, they are affected by human activities such as reclamation and pollution. Over-collection can also have an impact on local populations.

Noble volutes on Singapore shores
On wildsingapore flickr

Other sightings on Singapore shores

Changi, May 16
Photo shared by Marcus Ng on facebook.

Eating a clam
Changi, May 14
Photo shared by Toh Chay Hoon on facebook.

Eating a Gong-gong snail.
Chek Jawa, Feb 23
Photo shared by Che Cheng Neo on facebook.

Eating a clam.
Changi East, Jun 23
Photo shared by Che Cheng Neo on facebook.

East Coast Park-Marina East, May 22
Photo shared by Richard Kuah on facebook.

Pulau Semakau (East), Dec 20
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on facebook.

Terumbu Pempang Tengah, Mar 16
Photo shared by Marcus Ng on facebook.

Terumbu Pempang Tengah, May 11
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on his blog.

Terumbu Raya, May 10
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on his flickr.

Beting Bemban Besar, May 10
Photo shared by Neo Mei Lin on her blog.

Terumbu Semakau, Dec 15
Photo shared by Jianlin Liu on facebook.

Pulau Pawai, Dec 09
Photo shared by James Koh on his flickr.

Pulau Berkas, Feb 22
Photo shared by Vincent Choo on facebook.



  • Tan Siong Kiat and Henrietta P. M. Woo, 2010 Preliminary Checklist of The Molluscs of Singapore (pdf), Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, National University of Singapore.
  • Tan, K. S. & L. M. Chou, 2000. A Guide to the Common Seashells of Singapore. Singapore Science Centre. 160 pp.
  • Gosliner, Terrence M., David W. Behrens and Gary C. Williams. 1996. Coral Reef Animals of the Indo-Pacific: Animal life from Africa to Hawaii exclusive of the vertebrates Sea Challengers. 314pp.
  • Davison, G.W. H. and P. K. L. Ng and Ho Hua Chew, 2008. The Singapore Red Data Book: Threatened plants and animals of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore). 285 pp.
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