Oyster drill (Ocenebra erinaceus)

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



Shell up to 5 cm long and 2.5 cm in breadth with sharply pointed apex and 8 tumid whorls. Siphonal canal short, open in juveniles but closed by a flat growth of shelly material in mature shells. Outer lip thin and crenulate in juveniles, thick and coarsely denticulate in older specimens. Ridges across whorls (costae) well spaced, 7-8 on last whorl. Aperture oval. Last whorl with 8-9 spiral ridges. Shell yellowish or white in colour, often with brown markings, especially on costae and spiral ridges. Flesh yellow or cream with white markings. Distinct egg capsules are a flattened vase shape and layed in clumps on stones or shells.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Occurs predominantly on west and south-west coasts of Britain and is also present in Ireland.

Global distribution

Ocenebra erinacea is a southern species that extends from the British Isles to the Mediterranean, Madeira and the Azores.


Predominantly sublittoral, occurring on rocks and under stones to depths of 150 m, but may often be found on the lower parts of sheltered rocky shores in the summer.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Tall, angulated spire.
  • Whorls with coarse sculpture of costae and spiral ridges.
  • Sutures deep.
  • Siphonal canal closed to form a tube in older animals.
  • Growth lines resembling delicate, upraised arch-like structures occur everywhere on shell.
  • Hypobranchial gland produces a purple secretion.

Additional information

In populations subject to high tributyltin (TBT) pollution, female Ocenebra erinacea exhibit a characteristic malformation of the oviduct as an effect of advanced imposex.

Listed by

- none -


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  2. Gibbs, P.E. & Bryan, G.W., 1987. TBT paints and the demise of the dogwhelk, Nucella lapillus (Gastropoda). In Oceans' 87 Proceedings, Volume 4: International Organotin Symposium, pp. 1482-1487.

  3. Gibbs, P.E., 1996. Oviduct malformation as a sterilising effect of tributyltin (TBT)-induced imposex in Ocenebra erinacea (Gastropoda: Muricidae) Journal of Molluscan Studies, 62, 403-413

  4. Graham, A., 1971. British Prosobranchs. London: Academic Press.[Synopses of the British Fauna, no. 2.]

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

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

  7. Hayward, P.J. & Ryland, J.S. (ed.) 1995b. Handbook of the marine fauna of North-West Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  8. 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

  9. 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.]

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


  1. Centre for Environmental Data and Recording, 2018. IBIS Project Data. Occurrence dataset: https://www.nmni.com/CEDaR/CEDaR-Centre-for-Environmental-Data-and-Recording.aspx accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-09-25.

  2. Centre for Environmental Data and Recording, 2018. Ulster Museum Marine Surveys of Northern Ireland Coastal Waters. Occurrence dataset https://www.nmni.com/CEDaR/CEDaR-Centre-for-Environmental-Data-and-Recording.aspx accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-09-25.

  3. Cofnod – North Wales Environmental Information Service, 2018. Miscellaneous records held on the Cofnod database. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/hcgqsi accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-25.

  4. Conchological Society of Great Britain & Ireland, 2018. Mollusc (marine) data for Great Britain and Ireland - restricted access. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/4bsawx accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-25.

  5. Conchological Society of Great Britain & Ireland, 2018. Mollusc (marine) records for Great Britain and Ireland. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/aurwcz accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-25.

  6. Environmental Records Information Centre North East, 2018. ERIC NE Combined dataset to 2017. Occurrence dataset: http://www.ericnortheast.org.ukl accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-09-38

  7. Fenwick, 2018. Aphotomarine. Occurrence dataset http://www.aphotomarine.com/index.html Accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-10-01

  8. Kent Wildlife Trust, 2018. Kent Wildlife Trust Shoresearch Intertidal Survey 2004 onwards. Occurrence dataset: https://www.kentwildlifetrust.org.uk/ accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-10-01.

  9. Manx Biological Recording Partnership, 2018. Isle of Man historical wildlife records 1990 to 1994. Occurrence dataset:https://doi.org/10.15468/aru16v accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  10. Merseyside BioBank., 2018. Merseyside BioBank (unverified). Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/iou2ld accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  11. Merseyside BioBank., 2018. Merseyside BioBank Active Naturalists (unverified). Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/smzyqf accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  12. National Trust, 2017. National Trust Species Records. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/opc6g1 accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  13. NBN (National Biodiversity Network) Atlas. Available from: https://www.nbnatlas.org.

  14. Norfolk Biodiversity Information Service, 2017. NBIS Records to December 2016. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/jca5lo accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  15. OBIS (Ocean Biodiversity Information System),  2023. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. www.iobis.org. Accessed: 2023-09-30

  16. South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre, 2018. SEWBReC Molluscs (South East Wales). Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/jos5ga accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.

  17. South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre, 2018. Dr Mary Gillham Archive Project. Occurance dataset: http://www.sewbrec.org.uk/ accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-10-02


This review can be cited as:

Skewes, M. 2005. Ocenebra erinaceus Oyster drill. 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 30-09-2023]. Available from: https://www.marlin.ac.uk/species/detail/1653

Last Updated: 04/07/2005