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

Pearly top shell (Margarites helicinus)

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



A thin globular shell, up to 9 mm high, with 4 or 5 whorls that are separated by distinct sutures to give a stepped profile. Translucent, light brown, orange or reddish in colour, with green or purple tints. Aperture large and rounded. Lateral lobes of the foot have 6 (sometimes 5) pairs of tentacles.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

A northern species recorded from the Shetlands to as far south as Yorkshire and Dublin.

Global distribution

No information found.


From the lower shore to the sublittoral under stones, in pools and on Fucus, Laminaria and smaller algae.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • A brown band is often present on the last whorl.
  • Rounded aperture.
  • Stepped outline of shell.

Additional information

No text entered

Listed by

- none -

Further information sources

Search on:


  1. Graham, A., 1971. British Prosobranchs. London: Academic Press.[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.) 1995b. Handbook of the marine fauna of North-West Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  4. Hiscock, K., Southward, A., Tittley, I., Jory, A. & Hawkins, S., 2001. The impact of climate change on subtidal and intertidal benthic species in Scotland. Scottish National Heritage Research, Survey and Monitoring Report , no. 182., Edinburgh: Scottish National Heritage

  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. McMillan, N.F., 1968. British Shells. London: Frederick Warne & Co Ltd.

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


This review can be cited as:

Skewes, M. 2003. Margarites helicinus Pearly top 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 25-09-2018]. Available from:

Last Updated: 04/02/2003