Purple topshell

Purple topshell

Purple topshell by Paul Naylor

Purple topshell

Scientific name: Steromphala umbilicalis
One of the most common and colourful sea snails you are likely to see when out on a rockpool safari!

Species information


1.6cm high, 2.2.cm across

Conservation status


When to see

January to December


These small, highly attractive sea snails are very common across most seashores and shallow waters, spending most of their time grazing on seaweed and rocks. Occasionally, you can see their two striped antennae sticking out when they are on the move.

How to identify

The flattish shell usually consists of alternating green/grey and purple bands, which tend to fade as the snail gets older. Gently turn the shell over and look for a small hole on the underside, along with the characteristic ‘mother of pearl,’ which all topshells possess.


Found along the southern and western shores of Britain as far north as Scotland and on suitable shores in Ireland.

Did you know?

This topshell’s scientific name ‘umbilicalis’ comes from the large hole on its underside, like a belly button!

How people can help

Always follow the Seashore Code when rockpooling, taking care where you walk and making sure you put animals and rocks back gently.