< Previous family

Next family introduction >

Family  Muricidae

Murex, rock and coral shells


The Muricidae includes many large, spectacularly spined and delicately fronded species which are favourites with collectors. But more numerous in the family are small and medium sized species, less ornately sculptured, which are common on rocky shores and in estuaries. The family is divided into a number of subfamilies, all of which are represented in the NSW fauna.

The species of the subfamily Muricinae, which have elaborately spined and fronded varices, are mainly tropical, but a few species occur in NSW. The more spectacular of these live subtidally and are only found in good condition when occasionally taken by scuba diver. In the subfamily Muricopsinae varices are also present, but are generally low, thick and short spined. Four species of this subfamily also occur in NSW, all uncommon to rare. In contrast, species of the subfamily Ergalataxinae, commonly known as Oyster Drills, are more common. They are small to medium in size, and lack varices. They occur on rocky and sheltered shores intertidally and subtidally, two species being quite common in oyster beds.

Species of the subfamily Typhinae are distinguished by a closed siphonal canal on the shoulder. In NSW they are rarely encountered, as they occur subtidally, down to 600 m in depth. One large and several small species occur locally. Shells of the Trophoninae are also obtained from deep water, and are relatively poorly known. They are distinguished by numerous laminate varices and a long siphonal canal. Two large species have recently become available from commercial trawling on the continental slope of south-eastern Australia.

The subfamily Rapaninae was previously known as Thaidinae or the separate family Thaididae. In this subfamily shells are smooth, nodulose or spinose, but lack varices, and have a distinctive ridged operculum. The common name of `rock shells' is indicative of their habitat among rocks and coral where they frequently become heavily encrusted with marine growth. The subfamily is represented in NSW by several common intertidal species, including the ubiquitous mulberry shell and the cartrut shell.

Muricids are carnivorous, some species obtaining food by drilling a small circular hole in the shell of their prey. On rocky shores in NSW species of this family, particularly the mulberry whelk Morula marginalba, are important predators on mussels, barnacles and other sessile animals.

Family References:

  • D'Attilio, A. & Hertz, C.M. 1988. An illustrated catalogue of the family Typhinae Cossmann, 1903. Festivus, Supp. 20: 1-73.

  • Houart, R. 1992. The genus Chicoreus and related genera (Gastropoda: Muricidae) in the Indo-West Pacific. Memoires du Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle (A) 154: 1-188.

  • Kool, S.P. 1993. Phylogenetic analysis of the Rapaninae (Neogastropoda: Muricidae). Malacologica 35(2): 155-259.

  • Ponder, W.F. 1972. Notes on some Australian genera and species of the family Muricidae. Journal of the Malacological Society of Australia 2(3): 215-248.

  • Ponder, W.F. & Vokes, E.H. 1988. A revision of the Indo-West Pacific fossil and recent species of Murex s.s. and Haustellum (Mollusca: Gastropoda: Muricidae). Records of the Australian Museum Supplement 8: 1-160.

  • Radwin, G.E. & D'Attilio, A. 1976. Murex shells of the world. An illustrated guide to the Muricidae. Stanford University Press: Stanford.


In addition to the species described in detail, the following are recorded from NSW:

Large, deep water species restricted to north-eastern Australia:

  • Pterynotus patagiatus (Hedley, 1912). Living specimens from Three Is, Qld, to Bunker Group, Qld. Holotype from Sydney Harbour, probably subfossil. Length up to 54 mm.

Species widespread in the tropical Indo-West Pacific, uncommonly occurring in northern NSW:

  • Aspella anceps (Lamarck, 1822) (Synonym Aspella ponderi Radwin & D'Attilio, 1976). Indo-West Pacific, to Sydney, NSW. Length to 14 mm.

  • Chicoreus territus (Reeve, 1845). Central Indo-West Pacific to Sydney. Length to 70 mm.

  • Cronia margariticola (Broderip, 1832). Indo-West Pacific to Angourie, NSW. Length to 46 mm.

  • Drupa ricinus (Linnaeus, 1758). Indo-West Pacific, to Solitary Islands, NSW. Length to 31 mm.

  • Drupa rubusidaeus Roding, 1798. Indo-West Pacific, to Solitary Islands, NSW. Length to 55 mm.

  • Drupella cornus (Roding, 1798). Indo-West Pacific, to Solitary Islands, NSW. Length to 46 mm.

  • Drupella rugosa (Born, 1778). Indo-West Pacific, to Iluka, NSW. Length to 35 mm.

  • Habromorula lepida Houart, 1994 (Synonym Morula dumosa (Conrad, 1837). Indo-West Pacific to Solitary Islands, NSW. Length to 15 mm.

  • Homalocantha anatomica (Perry, 1811). Indo-West Pacific, to Solitary Islands, NSW. Length to 54 mm.

  • Lataxiena fimbriata (Hinds, 1844) (Synonym Lataxiena lataxiena Jousseaume, 1883). Indo-West Pacific to Port Stephens, NSW. Length to 53 mm.

  • Morula anaxares (Kiener, 1835). Indo-West Pacific, to Angourie, NSW. Length to 17 mm.

  • Morula spinosa (H. & A. Adams, 1853). Indo-West Pacific, to Solitary Islands, NSW. Length to 30 mm.

  • Morula uva (Roding, 1798). Indo-West Pacific, to Solitary Islands, NSW. Length to 24 mm.

  • Nassa serta (Bruguiere, 1789). Indo-West Pacific, to Clarence River, NSW. Length to 68 mm.

  • Pascula ochrostoma (Blainville, 1832). Indo-West Pacific, to Angourie, NSW. Length to 20 mm.

  • Phrygiomurex sculptilis (Reeve, 1844). Indo-West Pacific, to Angourie, NSW. Length to 20 mm.

  • Pinaxia versicolor (Gray, 1839). Indo-West Pacific, to Woolgoolga, NSW. Length to 25 mm.

  • Thais alouina (Roding, 1798) (Synonym Mancinella mancinella "Linnaeus, 1758"). Indo-West Pacific, to Yamba, NSW. Length to 61 mm.

  • Vexilla vexillum (Gmelin, 1791). Indo-West Pacific, to Sydney, NSW. Length to 22 mm.