Velvet shell (Velutina velutina)

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



Velutina velutina can be up to 1 cm long by 1 cm wide. The shell is white to pinkish in colour but covered by a thick dark brown periostracum. The shell is tumid in shape, with 2-3 whorls that expand rapidly so that the last whorl occupies the whole shell height, and its nearly circular aperture occupies 90% of the last whorl. The spire is low, occasionally in a small depression. The shell is fragile and semi-transparent, with fine spiral and growth lines, obscured by the periostracum. There is no operculum, and the small mantle flaps enable the whole of the animal to be drawn into the shell. The flesh is white or yellowish, with the smooth and greatly thickened mantle edge having many white points. The foot has a shield-like appearance with double-edged anterior margin.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

This circumboreal species has scattered records from the Shetland Isles, Orkney, east Scotland, Pembrokeshire, the Isle of Man, North Wales, north east Ireland and western Scotland.

Global distribution



Velutina velutina is a sublittoral species found down to 1000 m deep, on hard grounds only, usually associated with compound ascidians and large hydroids on which it feeds.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Semi-transparent, thin shell.
  • Up to 2 cm x 2 cm but usually smaller.
  • Large, almost circular aperture.
  • Shell covered with periostracum concealing whorls and sutures.
  • Periostracum dark brown.
White or yellowish flesh.

Additional information

This is a northern hemisphere species that feeds on solitary ascidians such as Styela and large hydroids (e.g. species of Tubularia). Breeding occurs in the spring. The larva of the species has a flat discoidal, soft and gelatinous shell that lacks marginal keels, and becomes bloated in latter stages of development.

Listed by

- none -


  1. Graham, A., 1988. Molluscs: prosobranchs and pyramellid gastropods (2nd ed.). Leiden: E.J. Brill/Dr W. Backhuys. [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.), 1995. The marine fauna of the British Isles and north-west Europe. Volume 2. Molluscs to Chordates. Oxford Science Publications. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

  4. 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.]

  5. JNCC (Joint Nature Conservation Committee), 1999. Marine Environment Resource Mapping And Information Database (MERMAID): Marine Nature Conservation Review Survey Database. [on-line]


  1. Centre for Environmental Data and Recording, 2018. Ulster Museum Marine Surveys of Northern Ireland Coastal Waters. Occurrence dataset accessed via on 2018-09-25.

  2. Cofnod – North Wales Environmental Information Service, 2018. Miscellaneous records held on the Cofnod database. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-09-25.

  3. Conchological Society of Great Britain & Ireland, 2018. Mollusc (marine) data for Great Britain and Ireland - restricted access. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-09-25.

  4. Conchological Society of Great Britain & Ireland, 2018. Mollusc (marine) records for Great Britain and Ireland. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-09-25.

  5. Kent Wildlife Trust, 2018. Kent Wildlife Trust Shoresearch Intertidal Survey 2004 onwards. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-01.

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

  7. OBIS (Ocean Biodiversity Information System),  2024. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. Accessed: 2024-07-25


This review can be cited as:

Rowley, S.J. 2008. Velutina velutina Velvet shell. 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 25-07-2024]. Available from:

Last Updated: 03/06/2008