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Family  Litiopidae





This is a small family of small sized molluscs that occur, often in large numbers, on algae and seagrass in shallow water. The family is distinct in anatomical terms, but the shells are virtually indistinguishable from those of several other families of small, high-spired gastropods, particularly Dialidae and some Cerithiidae.

The Australian litiopids are poorly known, but there are about 10 named species. Three species are recorded from NSW, but their taxonomy is in disarray. The shells are variable to extremely variable within each species, resulting in many forms having been assigned specific names, and the same species bearing different names in several states.

There has been no revision of the Australian species, and the NSW species were last considered by Laseron (1950), whose work was based entirely on shell characters. Until a thorough revision is done using anatomical and genetic characters as well as shell morphology the species will remain poorly differentiated. An attempt has been made here to delineate the species, but it must be regarded as an interim statement. A convenient name is used for each species, but there are probably earlier names available; no attempt has been made to resolve synonyms within the family.

Family reference

There is no comprehensive reference to the family.


All the recognized species in the family from NSW, being only three,  are detailed here, but it is possible that further species may be recognized within these by closer scrutiny.

Identification Notes

Shells in this family are small, NSW species being less than 7 mm in length, and usually 3-4 mm. They may have spiral sculpture but axial sculpture is absent. Shells are transparent when fresh, becoming opaque when old, and are unmarked to strongly patterned. The aperture is entire i.e. there is no siphonal or anal canal, although the outer lip is flared somewhat anteriorly; the outer lip is thin without a varix.

Copyright Des Beechey 2006