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Keyhole limpet
Temporal range: Triassic–Recent[1]
Keyhole limpet 05.jpg
A group of shells of Diodora cayenensis
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Mollusca
Class: Gastropoda
Subclass: Vetigastropoda
Order: Lepetellida
Superfamily: Fissurelloidea
Fleming, 1822
Family: Fissurellidae
Fleming, 1822
Type genus
Genera and species

See text

Fissurellidae, common name the keyhole limpets and slit limpets, is a taxonomic family of limpet-like sea snails, marine gastropod molluscs in the clade Vetigastropoda.[2][3] Their common name derives from the small hole in the apex of their cone-like shells. Although superficially resembling "true" limpets, they are in fact not closely related to them.


The distribution of fissurellids is worldwide, from cold waters to tropical waters.[4]


Fissurellids live in habitats on and under rocks in the lower intertidal zones to deeper waters.[4]

Shell description[edit]

A fossil shell of Diodora italica from the Pliocene of Cyprus.

Keyhole limpets somewhat resemble true limpets because of the simple conical shape of their shells, but in reality they are not closely related to true limpets, which are in the clade Patellogastropoda. This conical shape of the shell allows keyhole limpets to withstand wave attack on exposed rocks. The shell has a reticulate (= net-like) sculpture with strong radial ribs and lacks an operculum. The shell ranges from 3 mm to 13.2 cm. The great keyhole limpet (Megathura crenulata) measures up to 13.2 cm.

For respiration, the shells of fissurellids have a single apical or subapical perforation ("keyhole"). This opening at the top allows a direct exit of exhalant water currents together with waste products from the mantle cavity. The water enters under the edge of the shell near the head and passes over large paired gills. Most young species in this family have a marginal slit in the middle of the anterior end of the spiral shell. Some species possess just a short internal groove at the anterior end. The paired organs in the mantle cavity represent a primitive condition in gastropods.

The soft body consists of a well-developed head, a short muzzle. It has a broad and flat foot and a well-developed mantle. This foot exerts a strong suction, adhering the keyhole limpet to its hard substratum. The mantle extends in some species partly or completely (as in Megathura crenulata) over the shell. The tentacles at the epipodium (the lateral grooves between foot and mantle) are well developed. The species in Medusafissurella have numerous subequal tentacles at the propodium, while the species in Dendrofissurella have an outgrowth with main trunk and side branches at the propodium. The eyes are situated on rudimentary pedicels at their outer bases. The sides are ornamented with short cirri. There are two, symmetrical branchial plumes . The anal siphon occupies the anterior notch or perforated summit of the shell.[5]

In addition to the possession of this hole, slit or groove, keyhole limpets differ in several other ways both internally and externally from true limpets.[how?]

Feeding habits[edit]

Keyhole limpets are in essence herbivorous, feeding primarily on algae, but are also detritus feeders. A few species in the genera Diodora and Emarginella are carnivorous, feeding on sponges. Puncturella has been reported to digest diatoms and detritus. Puncturella aethiopica feeds mainly on Foraminifera.[6]


Family Fissurellidae Fleming, 1822

This classification was based by Bouchet & Rocroi on the studies by Keen (in Moore) (1960), Christiaens (1973) [7] and McMean (1984).[8]

Aktipis S.W., Boehm E. & Giribet G. (2011) then raised the tribe Diodorini to the status of subfamily Diodorinae.[9]


Genera within the family Fissurellidae include:[10][11]

Genera brought into synonymy
  • Austroglyphis Cotton & Godfrey, 1934: synonym of Diodora Gray, 1821
  • Aviscutum Iredale, 1940: synonym of Scutus Montfort, 1810
  • Capiluna Gray, 1857: synonym of Diodora Gray, 1821
  • Cemoria Risso, 1826 [ex Leach MS]: synonym of Puncturella Lowe, 1827
  • Cremoria [Gray, 1842]: synonym of Puncturella Lowe, 1827
  • Elegidion Iredale, 1924: synonym of Diodora J. E. Gray, 1821
  • Emarginella Pilsbry, 1890: synonym of Emarginula Lamarck, 1801
  • Entomella Cotton, 1945: synonym of Emarginula Lamarck, 1801
  • Fissuridea Swainson, 1840: synonym of Diodora J. E. Gray, 1821
  • Glyphis Carpenter, 1857: synonym of Diodora J. E. Gray, 1821
  • Legrandia Beddome, 1883: synonym of Zeidora A. Adams, 1860
  • Megatebennus Pilsbry, 1890: synonym of Fissurellidea d'Orbigny, 1839
  • Nannoscutum Iredale, 1937: synonym of Scutus Montfort, 1810
  • Nesta H. Adams, 1870: synonym of Zeidora A. Adams, 1860
  • Notomella Cotton, 1957: synonym of Emarginula Lamarck, 1801
  • Parmophoridea Wenz, 1938: synonym of Parmaphorella Strebel, 1907
  • Parmophorus Blainville, 1817: synonym of Scutus Montfort, 1810
  • Plagiorhytis P. Fischer, 1885: synonym of Montfortula Iredale, 1915
  • Scutum P. Fischer, 1885: synonym of Scutus Montfort, 1810
  • Semperia Crosse, 1867: synonym of Emarginula Lamarck, 1801
  • Sipho T. Brown, 1827: synonym of Puncturella Lowe, 1827
  • Siphonella Issel, 1869: synonym of Montfortista Iredale, 1929
  • Subemarginula Gray, 1847: synonym of Hemitoma Swainson, 1840
  • Subzeidora Iredale, 1924: synonym of Emarginula (Subzeidora) Iredale, 1924
  • Tugalia Gray, 1857: synonym of Tugali Gray, 1843
  • Vacerra Iredale, 1924: synonym of Puncturella Lowe, 1827
  • Zidora P. Fischer, 1885: synonym of Zeidora A. Adams, 1860

See also[edit]


General references[edit]

  • P.J. Hayward, and J.S. Ryland (1996). Handbook of the Marine Fauna of North-West Europe. Oxford University Press. p. 500. ISBN 978-0-19-854055-7.
  • Geiger, Daniel L.; Christine E. Thacker. "Molecular phylogeny of Vetigastropoda reveals non-monophyletic Scissurellidae, Trochoidea, and Fissurelloidea" (PDF). Molluscan Research. 25 (1): 47–55.

Inline citations[edit]

  1. ^ Lindberg, edited by Winston F. Ponder, David R. (2008). Phylogeny and evolution of the Mollusca. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-25092-5. {{cite book}}: |first1= has generic name (help)
  2. ^ Rosenberg, G. (2012). Fissurellidae. Accessed through: World Register of Marine Species at on 2013-01-02
  3. ^ Bouchet, P.; Rocroi, J.-P. (2005). "Classification and Nomenclator of Gastropod Families". Malacologia. 47 (1–2).
  4. ^ a b Powell A. W. B., New Zealand Mollusca, William Collins Publishers Ltd, Auckland, New Zealand 1979 ISBN 0-00-216906-1
  5. ^ Tryon G. W. 1873. American marine conchology: or, Descriptions of the shells of the Atlantic coast of the United States from Maine to Florida
  6. ^ Herbert, David G. (1991). "Foraminiferivory in a Puncturella (Gastropoda, Fissurellidae)". J. Molluscan Stud. 57 (1): 127–140. doi:10.1093/mollus/57.1.127.
  7. ^ J. Christiaens (1973). "Les fissurelles européennes". Informations de la Société Belge de Malacologie. 2 (1): 3–16.
  8. ^ J.H. McLean (1984). "Shell reduction and loss in fissurellids : a review of genera and species in the Fissurellidea group". American Malacological Bulletin. 2: 21–34.
  9. ^ Aktipis S.W., Boehm E. & Giribet G. (2011) Another step towards understanding the slit-limpets (Fissurellidae, Fissurelloidea, Vetigastropoda, Gastropoda): a combined five-gene molecular phylogeny. Zoologica Scripta 40: 238-259
  10. ^ "Fissurellidae (Keyhole Limpets)". Archived from the original on 2010-03-27. Retrieved 2007-01-21.
  11. ^ "ITIS". Archived from the original on 2008-10-20. Retrieved 2007-11-02.
  12. ^ Palmer, KatherineV.W. (1942). "Substitutes for Moluccan homonyms". Journal of Paleontology. 16 (5): 674.

Further reading[edit]

  • Sowerby, G.B. Jr. (1862). Monograph of the family Fissurellidae. Reprinted edition (1982). Thesaurus conchyliorum, or monographs of genera of shells. Luis Pisani Burnay: Lisboa, Portugal. 183-206, 9 col. Plates pp.

External links[edit]

Media related to Fissurellidae at Wikimedia Commons