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Cantharidus opalus opalus.JPG
A shell of Cantharidus opalus opalus
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Mollusca
Class: Gastropoda
Clade: Vetigastropoda
Superfamily: Trochoidea
Family: Trochidae
Genus: Cantharidus
Montfort, 1810[1]
Type species
Trochus iris Montfort, P.D. de, 1810
  • Cantharidus (Cantharidus) Montfort, 1810
  • Cantharis Férussac, 1822
  • Canthiridus [sic] A. Adams, 1851
  • Elenchus Swainson, 1840
  • Cantharidium Schaufuss, 1869
  • Iwakawatrochus Kuroda & Habe, 1954
  • Limax Martyn, 1784 (non-binomial)
  • Mawhero Marshall, 1998
  • Micrelenchus Finlay, 1926
  • Micrelenchus (Micrelenchus) Finlay, 1926
  • Micrelenchus (Plumbelenchus) Finlay, 1926
  • Plumbelenchus Finlay, 1926

Cantharidus, common name the kelp shells, is a genus of sea snails, marine gastropod molluscs of the family Trochidae, the top shells.[2]


The shell has an ovate-conic or pyramidal shape. It is imperforate, smooth or spirally sculptured outside, brilliantly iridescent within. The colors are generally bright and variegated. The aperture is less than half the length of shell, longer than wide, ovate. The columella is usually more or less folded or toothed near the base.[3]

The central tooth of the radula has a body with broadly expanded supporting wings, a narrowed peduncle or neck, which bears a simple cusp. This peduncle has on each side delicate wings. The lateral teeth number five on each side and have as peculiarity that they increase in size from the inner to the outer one. The inner lateral is slender, narrowed toward the cusp, like the centrals, and (sometimes at any rate) bearing a lamella behind the peduncle. The outer laterals are very broad, with one or several denticles on the cusp. The only character separating Cantharidus from Gibbula is the simple cusp of the central tooth, whilst in Gibbula it is denticulate at the sides.[3]


This genus is composed of marine species with a wide distribution, occurring off Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, French Polynesia, South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, New Caledonia, Oceania, East India, Africa.


The World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) includes the following species with valid names within the genus Cantharidus :[2]

The Indo-Pacific Molluscan Database also mentions the following species with names in current use :[4]

Species and subspecies within the genus Cantharidus include:[5][6]

Species brought into synonymy


  • Mollusca[permanent dead link]
  • Powell A W B, New Zealand Mollusca, William Collins Publishers Ltd, Auckland, New Zealand 1979 ISBN 0-00-216906-1
  • Miller M & Batt G, Reef and Beach Life of New Zealand, William Collins (New Zealand) Ltd, Auckland, New Zealand 1973
  • Vaught, K.C. (1989). A classification of the living Mollusca. American Malacologists: Melbourne, FL (USA). ISBN 0-915826-22-4. XII, 195 pp.
  • Marshall, B.A. 1998: The New Zealand Recent species of Cantharidus Montfort, 1810 and Micrelenchus Finlay, 1926 (Mollusca: Gastropoda: Trochidae). Molluscan Research 19: 107-156 (p. 130)
  • Williams S.T., Donald K.M., Spencer H.G. & Nakano T. (2010) Molecular systematics of the marine gastropod families Trochidae and Calliostomatidae (Mollusca: Superfamily Trochoidea). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 54:783-809