Limpets ©Richard Burkmar


Scientific name: Patella vulgata
If you’ve ever been rockpooling, you’ve probably seen a limpet or two! Their cone-shaped shells clamp onto rocks until the tide comes in, at which point they become active. Limpets move around eating algae using their tough tongue.

Species information


Length: 4cm Lifespan: 10-20 years

Conservation status


When to see

January to December


Common limpets are the small cone-like shells that are often seen firmly clamped to the side of rocks in rockpools. Although they may not look impressive at first glance, once the tide comes in they spring to action, moving around rocks eating algae using their tough tongue. Their tongue is the world’s strongest known biological structure – it needs to be to constantly scrape algae off tough rocks!

How to identify

There are three very similar species of limpet found on UK shores. The Common Limpet has a greyish, conical shell and is slightly larger than the other two. The Black-Footed Limpet, Patella depressa, has a smaller flatter shell and is mainly found around the south of the country. The China Limpet, Patella ulssiponensis, has an orange patch on the inside of its shell.


Found on rocky shores all around UK coasts.

Did you know?

Limpets move around over the rocks when the tide is in, but always return to their own favourite spot when the tide goes out, following the mucus trail that they have deposited. This spot becomes worn by the edges of the shell, and eventually an obvious 'scar' in the rock is created. This 'home scar' helps the limpet to better attach to the rock, stopping it drying out until the next tide comes in.

How people can help

When rockpooling, be careful to leave everything as you found it - replace any rocks you turn over, put back any crabs or fish and ensure not to scrape anything off its rocky home. If you want to learn more about our rockpool life, Wildlife Trusts around the UK run rockpool safaris and offer Shoresearch training - teaching you to survey your local rocky shore. The data collected is then used to protect our coasts and seas through better management or through the designation of Marine Protected Areas. The Wildlife Trusts are working with sea users, scientists, politicians and local people towards a vision of 'Living Seas', where marine wildlife thrives. Do your bit for our Living Seas by supporting your local Wildlife Trust or checking out our Action Pages.