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Brown turban snail

Brown turban snail

On Exhibit

Animal Facts

  • Scientific Name

    Tegula brunnea

  • Animal Type


  • Diet

    brown algae, bryozoans, diatoms

  • Size

    to 1 inch (25 mm)

  • Relatives

    top snails, limpets, abalone; Class: Gastropoda

  • Habitat

    Kelp Forest

  • Range

    Cape Arago, Oregon to the Channel Islands

Natural History

With its smooth, conical shell, a brown turban snail looks like a "foot" wearing a large hat. The shell, usually covered with red algae, is orange or bright brown. The "foot" has dark brown or black sides, with white or cream below. To reproduce, the separate sexes broadcast milky sperm and bright grass-green eggs into the sea, where fertilization occurs.

Even though the brown turbans and the black turbans are the two common turban snails in the intertidal zone, they don't intermingle. The black turbans live in the high intertidal zone; the brown turbans live in the low intertidal or subtidal zones, mostly on the tops of the giant kelp canopy. The brown turbans slowly wander about the kelp fronds, rasping the film of diatoms on the kelp's surface with their filelike tongues.


At the present time, brown turban snails are abundant. However, as creatures of the kelp forest ecosystem, their future depends on the fate of the giant kelp forest. Contaminated runoff or sewage and sludge dumped into the ocean can harm the giant kelp forest and the creatures that depend on it for their home.

Cool Facts

If the brown turban snail is dislodged from an irregular rock bottom, it can readily right itself, but on a gravel bottom it uses pebbles as a tool. It picks up pebbles with the front of its foot and transfers them to the back part of its foot—this changes the snail's center of gravity, enabling it to roll over and right itself.

Hermit crabs use the empty turban snail shells for protective armor. The brown turban snail flees (snail style) from both the scent and touch of pisaster sea stars but ignores non-predaceous sea stars.

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