information on the biology of species and the ecology of habitats found around the coasts and seas of the British Isles

Small periwinkle (Melarhaphe neritoides)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.



A very small winkle (growing up to 0.9 cm in height) with a high pointed spire and flat sides. The shell resembles a grape pip. The aperture is oval shaped with a pointed apex and the outer lip bears a transparent flap-like extension (the periostracum). The shell is dark bluish to blackish-brown in colour, occasionally with spiral banding or vertical stripes on the last whorl. Pale shells may also occur.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Found on most British and Irish coasts, although it is absent from the southern North Sea shores and has not been recorded east of the Isle of Wight on the Channel coast.

Global distribution



Melarhaphe neritoides lives high on the rocky shore in cracks and crevices, in Lichina pygmaea tufts and in empty barnacle tests. Its upper limit on the shore is determined by the level of wave exposure of the shore, and it often occurs several metres above high water on the most exposed shores.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Up to 0.9 cm in height.
  • High pointed spire and flat sides.
  • Shell resembles grape pip.
  • Dark bluish to blackish brown in colour.

Additional information

It feeds primarily on black lichens and detritus. Breeding occurs from autumn to spring.

Listed by

- none -

Further information sources

Search on:


  1. Fish, J.D. & Fish, S., 1996. A student's guide to the seashore. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  2. Graham, A., 1988. Molluscs: prosobranchs and pyramellid gastropods (2nd ed.). Leiden: E.J. Brill/Dr W. Backhuys. [Synopses of the British Fauna No. 2]

  3. Hayward, P., Nelson-Smith, T. & Shields, C. 1996. Collins pocket guide. Sea shore of Britain and northern Europe. London: HarperCollins.

  4. Hayward, P.J. & Ryland, J.S. (ed.) 1995b. Handbook of the marine fauna of North-West Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  5. Howson, C.M. & Picton, B.E., 1997. The species directory of the marine fauna and flora of the British Isles and surrounding seas. Belfast: Ulster Museum. [Ulster Museum publication, no. 276.]

  6. JNCC (Joint Nature Conservation Committee), 1999. Marine Environment Resource Mapping And Information Database (MERMAID): Marine Nature Conservation Review Survey Database. [on-line]

  7. National Biodiversity Network (NBN) Atlas website. Available from:  Accessed 01 April 2017


This review can be cited as:

Pizzolla, P.F 2007. Melarhaphe neritoides Small periwinkle. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. (eds) Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 21-05-2018]. Available from:

Last Updated: 13/08/2007