|A shell of Epitonium scalare|
Berry, 1910 (1812)
P. F. Röding, 1798
|about 630 species|
The word wentletrap originated in Dutch (wenteltrap), and it means spiral staircase. These snails are sometimes also called "staircase shells", and "ladder shells".
The Epitoniidae family belongs to the superfamily Epitonioidea, which also includes the Janthinidae (the pelagic purple snails) and the family Nystiellidae, all part of the informal group Ptenoglossa. Epitoniidae is a rather large family, with an estimated number of species about 630.
Wentletraps inhabit all seas and oceans worldwide, from the tropical zones to the Arctic and Antarctic zones.
Most species of wentletrap are white, and have a porcelain-like appearance. They are notable for their intricately geometric shell architecture, and the shells of the larger species are prized by collectors.
The more or less turret-shaped shell consists of tightly-wound (sometimes loosely coiled), convex whorls, which create a high, conical spiral. Fine or microscopic spiral sculpture (also called "striae") is present in many species. The shells sometimes feature an umbilicus. Wentletrap shells have a roundish or oval aperture, but its inner lip is often reduced to strip of callus. The round and horny operculum is paucispiral and fits the aperture tightly. Most of the species in the family are small to minute, although some are larger, and overall the adult shell length in the family varies between 0.6 and 11.7 cm.
Within the genus Epitonium, the type genus of the family, the shell has predominantly axial sculpture of high, sharply ribbed "costae". These costae may offer some protection against other predatory snails, which would find it difficult or impossible to bore a hole in a shell with such obstructions.
Little is known about the biology of most wentletraps. Many wentletraps reveal a hint of purple body color, suggestive of carnivorous feeding (Keen, 1958). The animal can exude through its salivary gland a pink or purplish dye that may have an anaesthetic effect on its prey.
Keen also cited direct observation of a wentletrap feeding by insertion of its proboscis into a sea anemone. A sequence of a wentletrap feeding on an anemone has been published. These snails also prey on corals and other coelenterates.
Genera within the family Epitoniidae include:
- Acirsa Mörch, 1857
- Acrilloscala Sacco 1891
- Alexania Strand, 1928
- Alora (H. Adams, 1861)
- Amaea H. & A. Adams, 1853
- Boreoscala Kobelt, 1902 (possibly a synonym of Cirsotrema)
- Cerithiscala de Boury, 1887
- Chuniscala Thiele, 1928
- Cingulacirsa Higo & Goto, 1993
- Cirsotrema Mörch, 1852
- Claviscala de Boury, 1909
- Couthouyella Bartsch 1909
- Crebriscala de Boury, 1909
- Cycloscala Dall, 1889
- Cylindriscala de Boury, 1909
- Depressiscala de Boury 1909
- Ecclesiogyra Dall, 1892 
- Eglisia Gray, 1842
- Epidendrium A. Gittenberger & E. Gittenberger, 2005
- Epifungium A. Gittenberger & E. Gittenberger, 2005
- Epitonium Röding, 1798
- Filiscala de Boury, 1911
- Foratiscala de Boury 1887
- Funiscala de Boury, 1890
- Globiscala de Boury, 1909
- Gregorioiscala Cossman, 1912
- Gyroscala de Boury, 1887
- Kurodacirsa Masahito & Habe, 1975
- Minabescala Nakayama, 1994
- Narvaliscala Iredale, 1936
- Opalia H. & A. Adams, 1853
- Periapta Bouchet & Waren, 1986
- Plastiscala Iredale, 1936
- Problitora Iredale, 1931
- Punctiscala Philippi, 1844
- Rutelliscala Kilburn, 1985
- Sthenorhytis Conrad 1862
- Surrepifungium A. Gittenberger & E. Gittenberger, 2005
- † Turriscala de Boury, 1890 †
- Variciscala de Boury, 1909
- Varicopalia Kuroda MS, 1960 (nomen nudum)
- Genera brought into synonymy 
- Acrilla H. Adams, 1860: synonym of Amaea H. Adams & A. Adams, 1853
- Acutiscala de Boury, 1909 : synonym of Epitonium Röding, 1798
- Amiciscala Jousseaume 1912 : synonym of Epitonium Röding, 1798
- Asperiscala de Boury, 1909: synonym of Epitonium Röding, 1798
- Cinctiscala de Boury 1909 : synonym of Asperiscala de Boury, 1909
- Cirratiscala de Boury, 1909 : synonym of Epitonium Röding, 1798
- Clathroscala de Boury 1889 : synonym of Amaea H. Adams & A. Adams, 1853
- Clathrus Oken 1815 : synonym of Epitonium Röding, 1798
- Compressiscala Masahito (Prince) & Habe 1976 : synonym of Gregorioiscala Cossmann, 1912
- Dannevigena Iredale 1936 : synonym of Cirsotrema Mörch, 1852
- Foliaceiscala de Boury 1912 : synonym of Epitonium Röding, 1798
- Fragiliscala Azuma 1962 : synonym of Amaea H. Adams & A. Adams, 1853
- FragilopaliaAzuma 1972 : synonym of Amaea H. Adams & A. Adams, 1853
- Glabriscala de Boury 1909 : synonym of Epitonium Röding, 1798
- Lampropalia Kuroda & Ito, 1961 : synonym of Cylindriscala de Boury, 1909
- Mazescala Iredale 1936 : synonym of Epitonium Röding, 1798
- Nipponoscala Masahito (Prince) & Habe 1973 : synonym of Epitonium Röding, 1798
- Nodiscala de Boury 1889 : synonym of Opalia H. Adams & A. Adams, 1853
- Nystiella Clench & Turner, 1952 : synonym of Opaliopsis Thiele, 1928
- Sagamiscala Masahito, Kuroda & Habe, 1971 : synonym of Globiscala de Boury, 1909
- Scala Mörch, 1852 : synonym of Epitonium Röding, 1798
- Scalina Conrad, 1865 : synonym of Amaea H. Adams & A. Adams, 1853
- Spiniscala de Boury, 1909 : synonym of Epitonium Röding, 1798
- Turbiniscala de Boury 1909 : synonym of Epitonium Röding, 1798
- Viciniscala de Boury 1909 : synonym of Epitonium Röding, 1798
- Berry S. S. (1910). "(Review of) Report on a collection of shells from Peru, with a summary of littoral marine Mollusca of the Peruvian zoological province. By William Healey Dall: Proc. U. S. N. M. 37, pp. 147-294, Pls. 20-28, 1909". The Nautilus 23(10): 130-132.
- Art Weil (1999). "Conchologists of America List". University of Georgia. Retrieved 2009-03-23.
- Gofas, S. (2010). Epitoniidae. In: Bouchet, P.; Gofas, S.; Rosenberg, G. (2010) World Marine Mollusca database. Accessed through: World Register of Marine Species at http://www.marinespecies.org/aphia.php?p=taxdetails&id=132 on 24 April 2011
- J. Wyatt Durham (1937). "Gastropods of the family Epitoniidae from mesozoid and Cenozoic rocks of the West Coast of North America". Journal of Paleontology 11 (6): 479–512. JSTOR 1298354.
- Collin, Rachel (2000). "Development and anatomy of Nitidiscala tincta (Carpenter, 1865) (Gastropoda: Epitoniidae)". The Veliger 43(4): 302-312.
- "Conchologists of America List". University of Georgia. 1999. Retrieved 2009-03-23.
- A. Weil, L. Brown and B. Neville, 1999, The Wentletrap Book: A Guide to the Recent Epitoniidae of the World, Mal de Mer Enterprises
- Neville, Bruce (1997). A Master Index to the Species Names in the Family Epitoniidae. Albuquerque, New Mexico: privately published. p. 59.
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