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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Six of a kind

This is one of my favorite marine snails, but they're small (usually less than 4 mm long), so they're often under-appreciated. They occur in Bodega Bay, but I found a few washed up on a beach in Pacific Grove yesterday, so I tried to photograph several of them.  

One of the most fascinating things about this species is the variable color pattern although there are "themes," almost every shell you find is unique.

Meet Eulithidium pulloides (formerly Tricolia pulloides).  Here are six separate examples.

Sometimes the shells are relatively solid: 

Other individuals have large pale splotches:

Some have more swirled patterns: 

And others have bolts and zigzags of color:

Sometimes you have to look closely for the very fine stripes: 

Other times there are paisley-like prints: 

For comparison, here are all six of these individuals together.  Note the sand grains in the picture.  The largest of these snails was 3 mm long.

The Light and Smith Manual (2007) says that Eulithidium pulloides is found "in gravel, under rocks, or associated with surfgrass or algae."  I also located one reference that noted their occurrence with subtidal coralline algae.

I wish I knew more about this species, especially the reason for such variable shell patterns!

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