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

Velvet shell (Velutina velutina)

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



Velutina velutina can be up to 1 cm long by 1 cm wide. The shell is white to pinkish in colour but covered by a thick dark brown periostracum. The shell is tumid in shape, with 2-3 whorls that expand rapidly so that the last whorl occupies the whole shell height, and its nearly circular aperture occupies 90% of the last whorl. The spire is low, occasionally in a small depression. The shell is fragile and semi-transparent, with fine spiral and growth lines, obscured by the periostracum. There is no operculum, and the small mantle flaps enable the whole of the animal to be drawn into the shell. The flesh is white or yellowish, with the smooth and greatly thickened mantle edge having many white points. The foot has a shield-like appearance with double-edged anterior margin.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

This circumboreal species has scattered records from the Shetland Isles, Orkney, east Scotland, Pembrokeshire, the Isle of Man, North Wales, north east Ireland and western Scotland.

Global distribution



Velutina velutina is a sublittoral species found down to 1000 m deep, on hard grounds only, usually associated with compound ascidians and large hydroids on which it feeds.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Semi-transparent, thin shell.
  • Up to 2 cm x 2 cm but usually smaller.
  • Large, almost circular aperture.
  • Shell covered with periostracum concealing whorls and sutures.
  • Periostracum dark brown.
White or yellowish flesh.

Additional information

This is a northern hemisphere species that feeds on solitary ascidians such as Styela and large hydroids (e.g. species of Tubularia). Breeding occurs in the spring. The larva of the species has a flat discoidal, soft and gelatinous shell that lacks marginal keels, and becomes bloated in latter stages of development.

Listed by

- none -

Further information sources

Search on:


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

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

  3. Hayward, P.J. & Ryland, J.S. (ed.) 1995a. The marine fauna of the British Isles and north-west Europe. Volume 2. Molluscs to Chordates. Oxford Science Publications. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

  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.]

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

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


This review can be cited as:

Rowley, S.J. 2008. Velutina velutina Velvet shell. 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 17-08-2018]. Available from:

Last Updated: 03/06/2008