Lunatia heros

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Northern moon snail
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Mollusca
Class: Gastropoda
(unranked): clade Caenogastropoda
clade Hypsogastropoda
clade Littorinimorpha
Superfamily: Naticoidea
Family: Naticidae
Genus: Lunatia
Species: L. heros
Binomial name
Lunatia heros
(Say, 1822)
  • Euspira heros (Say, 1822)
  • Lunatia heros[1]
  • Natica heros Say, 1822 (basionym) [2]
  • Polinices heros (Say, 1822)

The northern moon snail, scientific name Lunatia heros, is a species of large sea snail, a predatory marine gastropod mollusk in the family Naticidae, the moon snails (U.S.) or necklace snails (U.K.).[3]

This large snail is rather uncommon intertidally, but is much more common subtidally. This species, like all moon snails, feeds voraciously on clams and other snails.



The distribution of Lunatia heros falls within the range: 51.5°N to 33°N; 76°W to 65°W.[3] This western Atlantic species occurs in

  • Canada: Labrador, Gulf of St. Lawrence, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick
  • USA: Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina, and Maine.

There is a sibling species on the Pacific coast of North America: Lunatia lewisii (Gould, 1847).


Lunatia heros lives on mud and sand substrates in bathyal, infralittoral and circalittoral parts and estuary.[3]

The minimum recorded depth is 0 m.[4] and maximum recorded depth is 435 m.[4]

Shell description[edit]

The shell of this species is globular and can, under the right conditions, grow as large as 125 mm (7 inches) in maximum dimension.

The operculum is large, ear-shaped in outline, and is corneus and somewhat transparent. On beaches where the shell of this species washed up commonly, the operculum will usually also be found washed up in the drift line.

Moon snail predation[edit]

Evidence of northern moon snail predation is usually much easier to find than the snails themselves:

The powerful foot enables this gastropod to plow under the sand in search of other mollusks. Upon finding one, it "drills" a hole into the shell with its radula, releases digestive enzymes, and sucks out the somewhat predigested contents.[5]

When empty shells of clams and snails, including other moon snails, are seen to have a neat "countersunk" hole drilled in them, this is evidence of predation by a moon snail.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "ITIS classification". 
  2. ^ Gould A. A. (1841). Report on the Invertebrata of Massachusetts, comprising the Mollusca, Crustacea, Annelida, and Radiata. Published agreeably to an order of the legislature, by the commissioners on the Zoological and Botanical Survey of the state. pp. i-xiii [= 1-13], 1-373, pl. [1-15]. Cambridge. (Forsom, Wells & Thurston). 231-232. figure 163.
  3. ^ a b c d Bouchet, P. (2012). Lunatia heros (Say, 1822). Accessed through: World Register of Marine Species at on 2012-08-16
  4. ^ a b Welch J. J. (2010). "The "Island Rule" and Deep-Sea Gastropods: Re-Examining the Evidence". PLoS ONE 5(1): e8776. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0008776.
  5. ^ Andrew J. Martinez (2003). Marine Life of the North Atlantic: Canada to New England. Aqua Quest Publications. Retrieved 2007-02-17. 
  • Gosner, K.L. 1971. Guide to identification of marine and estuarine invertebrates: Cape Hatteras to the Bay of Fundy. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 693 p
  • Abbott, R.T. (1974). American Seashells. 2nd ed. Van Nostrand Reinhold: New York, NY (USA). 663 pp
  • Linkletter, L.E. 1977. A checklist of marine fauna and flora of the Bay of Fundy. Huntsman Marine Laboratory, St. Andrews, N.B. 68 p.
  • Bromley, J.E.C., and J.S. Bleakney. 1984. Keys to the fauna and flora of Minas Basin. National Research Council of Canada Report 24119. 366 p
  • Brunel, P., L. Bosse, and G. Lamarche. 1998. Catalogue of the marine invertebrates of the estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence. Canadian Special Publication of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 126. 405 p
  • Trott, T.J. 2004. Cobscook Bay inventory: a historical checklist of marine invertebrates spanning 162 years. Northeastern Naturalist (Special Issue 2): 261 - 324.