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

An auger shell (Turritella communis)

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



The shell is a tall, slender, sharply pointed cone. There may be as many as 20 whorls, each bearing spiral ridges and grooves. The shell is brownish- yellow to white in colour and often with a lilac tinge on the base, and grows up to 3 cm in length and 1 cm wide. The shell aperture is small and squarish. The operculum is edged with pinnate bristles. The foot of the snail is small, the flesh buff with dark spots and streaks and there is white markings on the tentacles, siphon and foot.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Common around Britain and Ireland but not recorded from the south east coast of England.

Global distribution

Found in the Mediterranean, and from Norway to north Africa.


Abundant on muddy sediments in shallow water, more or less buried but maintaining contact with the water. This species is slow moving and sits on the seabed filtering seawater for particles of food. It may be gregarious, occurring in large numbers. It can be found down to 200 m.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Tall, slender cone shaped shell.
  • The shell is brownish -yellow to white in colour.
  • Grows up to 3 cm in length and 1 cm wide.
  • The shell aperture is small and square.
  • The snail has white markings on its tentacles, siphon and foot.

Additional information

Very large numbers of empty shells are often washed up on the shore.

Listed by

- none -

Further information sources

Search on:


  1. Fish, J.D. & Fish, S., 1996. A student's guide to the seashore. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  2. Gibson, R., Hextall, B. & Rogers, A., 2001. Photographic guide to the sea and seashore life of Britain and north-west Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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

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


This review can be cited as:

Carter, M.C. 2008. Turritella communis An auger 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 22-09-2018]. Available from:

Last Updated: 17/04/2008