BIOTIC Species Information for Nucella lapillus
Researched byLizzie Tyler Data supplied byUniversity of Sheffield
Refereed byThis information is not refereed.
Distribution and Habitat
Distribution in Britain & IrelandCommon on all rocky coasts of Britain and Ireland.
Global distributionFound throughout the littoral zone of the North Atlantic from the Arctic to the Algarve in the east, Iceland and the Faroes, and from Long Island north to south west Greenland in the west.
Biogeographic rangeNot researched Depth range0 - 40 m
MigratoryNon-migratory / Resident   
Distribution Additional Information
  • Nucella lapillus is widely distributed approximately between the 19 °C summer isotherm in the south and the -1 °C winter isotherm in the north (Moore, 1936), except in areas of reduced salinity such as the Baltic Sea (Crothers, 1985).
  • Dog whelks occur below of mid tidal level, approximating to 10-75% emersion (Fretter & Graham, 1994).
  • Nucella lapillus may form aggregations on the shore. In summer (May - October) aggregations of 20-500 individuals of mixed ages may form on the open rock surface of extensive shores (e.g. at Robins Hoods Bay) giving the appearance of a hunting pack (Feare, 1971; Lewis, 1964; Crothers, 1985). In winter individuals aggregate in crevices and pools, presumably to avoid dislodgement, since they have difficulty re-attaching in cold weather. Winter aggregations may form into pre-breeding and breeding aggregations in which the juveniles leave to feed but the adults remain (Feare, 1971; Crothers, 1985).

Substratum preferencesBedrock
Large to very large boulders
Small boulders
Artificial (e.g. metal/wood/concrete)
Under boulders
Crevices / fissures
Physiographic preferencesOpen coast
Strait / sound
Ria / Voe
Enclosed coast / Embayment
Biological zoneMid Eulittoral
Lower Eulittoral
Sublittoral Fringe
Wave exposureExtremely Exposed
Very Exposed
Moderately Exposed
Very Sheltered
Extremely Sheltered
Tidal stream strength/Water flowVery Strong (>6 kn)
Strong (3-6 kn)
Moderately Strong (1-3 kn)
Weak (<1 kn)
SalinityFull (30-40 psu)
Variable (18-40 psu)
Habitat Preferences Additional Information
Distribution References Hayward & Ryland, 1990, Hayward & Ryland, 1995b, Fish & Fish, 1996, Graham, 1988, Morgan, 1972, Berry & Crothers, 1968, Fretter & Graham, 1994, Crothers, 1985, Feare, 1970b, Moore, 1936, Moore, 1938b, Lewis, 1964, Kirby et al., 1994a, Kirby et al., 1994b, Feare, 1971, Hunt & Scheibling, 1998, Wilson et al., 1983, Hayward & Ryland, 1990,
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