Urosalpinx cinerea

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Atlantic oyster drill
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Mollusca
Class: Gastropoda
(unranked): clade Caenogastropoda
clade Hypsogastropoda
clade Neogastropoda
Superfamily: Muricoidea
Family: Muricidae
Subfamily: Ocenebrinae
Genus: Urosalpinx
Species: U. cinerea
Binomial name
Urosalpinx cinerea
(Say, 1822)

Urosalpinx cinerea, common name the eastern or Atlantic oyster drill, is a species of small predatory sea snail, a marine gastropod mollusk in the family Muricidae, the murexes or rock snails.

This species is a serious problem in commercial oyster beds, and it has been accidentally introduced well outside its natural range.


This snail is endemic to the Atlantic coast of North America, from Nova Scotia to Florida. It has been accidentally introduced with oyster spat to Northern Europe and to the West Coast of North America from California to Washington.[1]


This species lives from low tide down to a depth of 25 feet.

Life habits[edit]

As indicated by its common name, this predatory snail drills through the shells of living oysters and consumes them.

Human relevance[edit]

This snail is a serious problem in commercial oyster farming:

"Next to the sea star, this snail is the worst enemy the ... [oyster fisher men] ... have to contend with. ...Settling upon a young bivalve, the oyster drill quickly bores a neat round hole through a valve, making expert use of its sandpaperlike radula. Through this perforation the oyster drill is able to insert its long proboscis and consume the soft parts of the oyster."[2]

Advocates of making use of bycatch, rather than discarding it, have promoted the oyster drill as a food, similar to escargot.[3]


  1. ^ Abbott, R. Tucker, 1986. Seashells of North America, St. Martin's Press, New York.
  2. ^ Abbott, R. Tucker; Violet French Morris (1995). Shells of the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. Houghton Mifflin Co. p. 211. 
  3. ^ Engelhardt, Elizabeth, "An Oyster by Any Other Name", Southern Spaces, 18 April 2011

External links[edit]