Small periwinkle (Melarhaphe neritoides)

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



A very small winkle growing up to 9 mm 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

Recorded around the British Isles, European coast, Mediterranean, northwest coast of Africa and a single recorded on the east coast of America. 


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

0-1.5 m

Identifying features

  • Up to 9 mm 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.  Please note the identification of Melarhaphe neritoides has been confused with that of Paludinella globularis (syn. littorina) and records of either species may be misattributed to the other (see WoRMS).  Kadolsky (2012) reported that the original description of type species of Paludinella littorina (originally described as Helix littorina Delle Chiaje, 1828), was most probably based on small specimens of Melarhaphe neritoides (Linnaeus, 1758). The original type description was, therefore, incorrect. In addition, Pfeiffer (1841) based the genus Paludinella on the taxonomic extension given to that name by Philippi (1841), i.e. a misidentified type species. Furthermore, Kadolsky noted that the correct name for specimens of P. littorina is, in fact, P. globularis.  Therefore, for specimens of Paludinella littorina of authors, non Delle Chiaje, Kadolsky restored the name Paludinella globularis and designated the latter as type species of Paludinella (Kadolsky, 2012; Bouchet, 2012).

Listed by

- none -


  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. Kadolsky, D., 2012. Nomenclatural comments on non-marine molluscs occuring in the British Isles. Journal of Conchology, 41 (1), 65-90.


  1. NBN (National Biodiversity Network) Atlas. Available from:

  2. OBIS (Ocean Biodiversity Information System),  2024. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. Accessed: 2024-07-22


This review can be cited as:

Pizzolla, P.F 2007. Melarhaphe neritoides Small periwinkle. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 22-07-2024]. Available from:

Last Updated: 13/08/2007