Veined rapa whelk (Rapana venosa)

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



Rapana venosa possesses a thick, rounded shell typically about 14 cm long with a short spire and an oval aperture of approximately 10 x 5 cm. The body whorl is inflated and the margin of the aperture possesses small lateral teeth and a short siphon canal. The U-shaped siphon can be extended up to 3 cm from the shell. The outer shell is variable in colour, from grey to reddish brown and is streaked through with dark brown veins. The inner shell and aperture is deep orange-red to yellow in colour.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Only known from central North Sea, south of Dogger Bank (possibly misidentified) and as bycatch from southern North Sea near English Channel at 'Michael's Ridge'- a fishing site offshore from the Thames Estuary.

Global distribution

Native in Sea of Japan, Yellow Sea and East China Sea. Invasive on French side of English Channel, Dutch North Sea, in Black, Adriatic, Aegean and Eastern and Central Mediterranean Seas, Chesapeake Bay in U.S.A., Argentina and Uruguay.


Found in estuaries, where it occupies (and migrates between) both hard and soft substrata. Rapana venosa burrows in sand, extending its siphon out of the sediment. It can also be found exposed on hard substrata and it prefers hard-bottom areas covered with a thin layer of sand in which it may burrow.

Depth range

4-20 m

Identifying features

  • Shell up to 17 cm long, typically 14 cm.
  • Knobbly, rounded and thick shell with short spire.
  • Shell opening inflated and oval, with small teeth on outer lip and short siphon canal.
  • Outer shell variable in colour- grey to reddish brown with dark brown veins.
  • Interior of shell a distinctive deep orange.
  • Siphon extends 1-3 cm from shell.

Additional information

  • Likely introduced as larvae in ballast water or as eggs on ship hulls and shells of imported oysters (Kerckhof et al., 2006).
  • First invasive population found in Black Sea in 1947.
  • Rapana venosa is a ravenous predator that feeds on native common mussels and common cockles, invasive razor shells (Ensis spp.) and farmed, introduced Magallana gigas. It may also out-compete native whelks for food.

Listed by

- none -



    1. Fenwick, 2018. Aphotomarine. Occurrence dataset Accessed via on 2018-10-01

    2. National Trust, 2017. National Trust Species Records. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-01.

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

    4. OBIS (Ocean Biodiversity Information System),  2024. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. Accessed: 2024-05-18


    This review can be cited as:

    Bilewitch, J. 2009. Rapana venosa Veined rapa whelk. 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 18-05-2024]. Available from:

    Last Updated: 28/07/2009