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

Arctic cowrie (Trivia arctica)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.
Only coastal and marine records shown



Trivia arctica has a small thickly calcified, glossy, egg shaped shell with a length of around 10 mm and width of 8 mm. The upper surface of the shell is reddish-brown while the lower surface is flattened and white. There are no spots on the shell, although the fleshy lobes of the mantle may bear spots. The shell aperture is long and narrow. Closely spaced, thickened ridges run around the width of the shell. When the animal is active the fleshy lobes of the mantle wrap around the shell so that it is almost totally covered. The mantle and the rest of the animal is pale in colour.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

The arctic cowrie is found mainly on the north and west coasts of Britain and around Ireland. It is most common where its ascidian prey occurs.

Global distribution



Found mainly in the sublittoral, on rocky coastlines and occasionally on the lower shore.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Egg shaped shell with flattened apertural surface.
  • Shell length around 10 mm, width around 8 mm.
  • Long narrow aperture present.
  • Upper surface of shell is reddish-brown while the underside is white.
  • Thickened ridges running around the width of the shell.
  • There are no markings on the shell.
  • The animal itself is pale in colour.

Additional information

The shell of Trivia arctica may be confused with that of Trivia monacha, which is slightly larger and has three dark spots down the long axis of the shell. Trivia arctica feeds on ascidians such as Botryllus schlosseri.

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. 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.]


This review can be cited as:

MacDougall, C.A. 2008. Trivia arctica Arctic cowrie. 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 20-08-2018]. Available from:

Last Updated: 17/04/2008