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Limpet Gastropod

Last updated date: 17th Apr 2024
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What is Limpet?

Limpets are a type of aquatic snail with a conical shell (patelliform) and a powerful, muscular foot. Limpets are members of the Gastropoda class and the limpet phylum Mollusca, however, they are polyphyletic, which means that different groups of "limpets" originated from different ancestral gastropods. The term "patelliform" refers to the generic group of conical shells (dish-shaped). Limpets are all members of the Patellogastropoda group, which is a huge and ancient marine lineage. Members of the Patellidae family, for example, are sometimes referred to as "true limpets" within that clade.

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Due to the similarities in the shape of the shell, several groups of the different family are also referred to as limpets of one type or another. The Fissurellidae ("keyhole limpet") family, which belongs to the Vetigastropoda clade (many other Vetigastropoda members lack the morphology of limpets), and the Siphonariidae ("false limpets"), which employ a syphon to push water over their gills, are two examples.

There are a few limpet species that live in freshwater, but they are the exception.

Humans and other animals have eaten a variety of limpet species in the past and continue to do so today. The Atlantic Plate Limpet (Testudinalia testudinalis) is a Gastropoda species belonging to the tortoiseshell limpet family. This species is no longer alive. Shallow marine sediments are formed by dead Atlantic Plate Limpet. They were able to reproduce sexually. They were animals with the ability to move about on their own.


The term "limpet" is frequently used to refer to a variety of unrelated families of sea snails and freshwater snails (aquatic gastropod molluscs). As a result, the common name "limpet" has little taxonomic significance in and of itself; The name is not only used for the true limpets (The patellogastropoda), but for all the snails having a simple shell, which is broadly conical in shape

and is not spirally coiled or appears not to be spirally coiled in the adult snail. In other words, all limpet shells are "patelliform," meaning they are fashioned similarly to the shells of most actual limpets. Some (but not all) of these other conical-shelled groupings are referred to as "false limpets."

As a result, the term limpet is applied to a variety of extremely varied species of gastropods that have all evolved a shell with the same fundamental shape (see convergent evolution). Despite the fact that the name "limpet" refers to a snail with a limpet-like or "patelliform" shell, the several groups of snails with this type of shell are not connected at all.

Anatomy of Limpets 

The Basic Anatomy of a Limpet Phylum Mollusca Consists of Usual Organs and Systems:

  • The paired cerebral, pedal and pleural sets of ganglia are at the centre of the nervous system. These ganglia form a circumesophageal nerve ring or nerve collar around the limpet's oesophagus. Other nerves in the head/snout include the optic nerves, which connect to the two eyespots at the base of the cerebral tentacles (these eyespots, when present, can only sense light and darkness and do not provide any imagery), and the labial and buccal ganglia, which are involved in feeding and controlling the animal's odontophore, the muscular cushion that supports the limp. The pedal nerve cords, which control foot movement, and the visceral ganglion, which has been torted in limpets during evolution, are located behind these ganglia. This means that the limpet's left osphradium and oshradial ganglion (which is thought to sense the moment to create gametes) are controlled by the right pleural ganglion, and vice versa.

  • The circulatory system of most limpets is built around a single triangular three-chambered heart with an atrium, ventricle, and bulbous aorta. The circumpallial vein (after being oxygenated by the ring of gills around the edge of the shell) and a series of small vesicles that bring more oxygenated blood from the nuchal cavity enter the atrium (the area above the head and neck). In this nuchal chamber, many limpets still have a ctenidium (or two) to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide with the surrounding water or air (many limpets can breathe air during periods of low tide, but those limpet species which never leave the water do not have this ability and will suffocate if deprived of water). Blood flows from the atrium to the ventricle and then to the aorta, where it is pumped to the hemocoel's lacunar blood gaps and sinuses. The odontophore may also play a significant function in blood circulation.

The size and position of the two kidneys are vastly different. Torsion is the cause of this. The left kidney is small and scarcely functioning in most limpets. The right kidney, on the other hand, has taken up the majority of blood filtration and typically extends in a thin, almost invisible layer over and around the animal's whole mantle.

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  • The digestive system is big and occupies a significant portion of the animal's body. The radula and odontophore collect food (algae), which enters through the downward-facing mouth. It subsequently passes through the oesophagus and into the intestines' many loops. The huge digestive gland aids in the breakdown of microscopic plant material, while the long rectum aids in the compacting of wasted food, which is then ejected through the nuchal cavity's anus. Most molluscs, and indeed many animals, have an anus that is placed distant from the head. Unless used food was thoroughly compacted before being expelled, it would quickly foul the nuchal cavity. The limpets' torsion persists despite the fact that they no longer have a shell into which they can retreat, and the evolutionary benefits of torsion appear to be negligible as a result (Some snail species have now de-torted, relocating their anus to the back end of the body; these groups no longer have a visceral twist to their nerve systems).

  • A limpet's gonad is found beneath its digestive tract, close above its foot. It swells and eventually bursts, releasing gametes into the right kidney, which then releases them on a regular basis into the surrounding water. The fertilised eggs hatch and the free-swimming veliger larvae swim for a while before settling to the bottom and maturing into an adult animal.

True limpets of the Patellidae family reside in the intertidal zone on hard surfaces. Unlike barnacles (which are not molluscs but look like limpets) and mussels (which are bivalve molluscs that are permanently connected to a substrate for their whole adult lives), limpets can move around instead of being stuck in one place. When they need to resist severe wave action or other disturbances, limpets use their muscular foot to apply suction paired with the adhesive mucus effect to adhere to the surfaces on which they reside. Removing a real limpet from a rock without harming or killing it is generally difficult.

All "true" limpets are found in the sea. The most primitive group has only one pair of gills, while others have only one, the leptids have no gills at all, and the patellids have evolved supplementary gills after losing their initial pair. However, because the adaptive trait of a basic conical shell has developed repeatedly throughout gastropod development, limpets from various evolutionary lineages can be found in a variety of settings. Some freshwater limpets (e.g., the genus Ancylus) are descendants of air-breathing land snails (e.g., the genus Trimusculidae) whose progenitors possessed a pallial chamber that served as a lung. The "lung" of these little freshwater limpets underwent secondary adaptation to allow them to absorb dissolved oxygen from the water.


Function and Formation

Limpets rely on the radula, an organ that includes iron-mineralized teeth, to obtain food. Only the outermost 10 rows of teeth are employed in feeding limpets, which have over 100 rows of teeth. Matrix-mediated biomineralization is a cyclic process in which iron minerals are delivered to strengthen a polymeric chitin matrix. The teeth realign themselves within the radula after fully calcified, allowing limpets to scrape algae from rock surfaces. When limpet teeth become worn, they are degraded (which can take anywhere from 12 to 48 hours) and replaced with new teeth. The teeth of different limpet species have different overall shapes.

Growth and Development

Teeth in limpets grow in a conveyor belt pattern, beginning at the back of the radula and progressing to the front as they mature. The teeth of a limpet grow at a rate of about 47 hours each row. The scraping zone, at the very front of the radula, is where fully grown teeth are found. The scraping zone comes into contact with the substrate from which the limpet feeds. As a result, fully grown teeth are worn down until they are discarded at the same pace as the rate of growth. To counteract this deterioration, a new row of teeth emerges.

Crystal Structure 

Goethite crystals form during the beginning of the tooth creation cycle and remain a vital element of the tooth, with amorphous silica filling the inter crystal gap. “Prisms with rhomb-shaped portions are the most common. according to the author. For a biogenic crystal, the goethite crystals are stable and well-formed. As of 2011, a dissolution-reprecipitation mechanism has been proposed for the transport of the material to generate the crystal structures. Limpet tooth structure is determined by the specimen's living depth. Although deepwater limpets have the same elemental composition as shallow water limpets, deepwater limpets do not contain crystalline goethite phases.

Characterising Composition

Iron, in the form of goethite, is the most prevalent metal in terms of % composition. FeO(OH) is the chemical formula for goethite, which belongs to the oxy-hydroxides group. Between the goethite crystals is amorphous silica, and a chitin matrix surrounds the goethite. The chemical formula for chitin is C8H13O5N. Other metals have been discovered, with relative percentage compositions varied depending on geographical location. The volume fraction of goethite has been estimated to be around 80 percent.

Regional Dependency 

The elemental ratios in the teeth of limpets from various regions were discovered to be variable. Other metals such as sodium, potassium, calcium, and copper were all found to be present to varying degrees. The relative percentages of the elements have also been proven to vary between geographical locations. This indicates that there is some form of environmental reliance; however, the particular variables are currently unknown.

Other Limpets 


The Hydrothermal Vent Limpets – Neomphaloidea and Lepetodriloidea.

The Hoof Snails – Hipponix and other Hipponicidae.

Slipper Snails – Crepidula species, which are sometimes known as slipper limpets.


The pulmonate river and lake limpets – Ancylidae.

Gills are seen in most marine limpets, but all freshwater limpets and a few marine limpets have a mantle cavity that can breathe air and act as a lung (and in some cases again adapted to absorb oxygen from water). All of these snail species are only distantly related.

Interesting Facts about Common Limpets 

  • Female limpets are typically larger than males, reaching a maximum length of 2.4 inches (6 cm).

  • Common limpets that dwell in algae only live 2 to 3 years, whereas those that live on bare rocks can live up to 16 years.

  • Common limpets roam around for the first few years of their existence before settling down in one particular location for their complete lives.

  • After feeding at the same spot in their rock that has been worn down by abrasion from their bodies, common limpets return home.

  • Common limpets aren't active until they're submerged underwater, where they can travel more easily on mucus.


Limpets are considered key species in the rocky coastal ecosystems as they maintain the composition and structure of the community and when their habitats disappear. In this article, we have come across the anatomy of the limpet and the ‘function and formation’ of the limpet teeth along with characterising composition and regional dependency of the limpet teeth. 

FAQs on Limpet Gastropod

1. Where the Limpets are Found?

Answer. The common limpet is a herbivorous marine snail that occurs along Western Europe's rocky coasts. These limpets are particularly well suited to an amphibious lifestyle since they reside in the intertidal zone (the area along the shore between high and low tide sea levels).

2. Can Limpets Hurt?

Answer. Limpets, unlike snails, do not have an operculum to close the opening in their shell. Instead, they press against the rock, creating a seal between the shell edge and the rock. You will injure them if you try to pry them off since their hold is so powerful.

3. Does a Limpet have a Brain?

Answer. The "brain" of limpets is made up of a small number of neurons, and it's unclear how they get back to their home. Lottia gigantea, a Mexican species with a length of 4-8 in (10-20 cm), is the largest limpet. The majority of limpet species are 0.4-1 in (1-2.5 cm) in length. Some species are thought to live for up to 15 years.

4. Are Limpet Shells Rare?

Answer. Diodora meta (Ihering, 1927), the Meta Keyhole Limpet, is a locally rare and secretive gastropod that can also be found in other regions of the Gulf of Mexico and the western Atlantic Ocean. Its shell is around 12 mm (0.5 inches) in diameter and features a roundish "keyhole" aperture that distinguishes it from other species in the vicinity.

5. What Does a Limpet Look Like?

Answer. The little cone-like shells that are frequently found securely fastened to the side of rocks in rock pools are known as common limpets. Although they may not appear to be remarkable at first appearance, they leap into action when the tide comes in, moving around rocks and eating algae with their strong tongue.