Tuesday 21 May
Edible periwinkle (Littorina littorea)
What’s the World’s Favourite Species?Find out here.
Edible periwinkle fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Edible periwinkle description
Periwinkles are a large family of gastropod molluscs found on the shore. The edible periwinkle is perhaps the best known species of this family, as it has been collected and eaten for centuries. After boiling, the soft body is ‘winkled out’ from the shell with a pin or a special ‘winkle-picker’ (3). This species is the largest periwinkle found in Britain. It has a dark grey or black conical shell that develops a smooth surface with age. The flattened tentacles bear obvious black bands, a feature which allows young specimens to be identified easily. Males can be distinguished during the breeding season by the presence of a penis on the right side of the body (4).
- Also known as
- common periwinkle.
- Shell height: up to 30 mm (2)
- Stage in an animal’s lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
- A marine zone between the littoral zone (the shallow zone where light reaches the bed, subject to submersion and exposure by tides) and depths of around 200m.
- National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary (September, 2003)
- Fish, J.D. and Fish, S. (1989) A student’s guide to the seashore. Unwin Hyman Ltd., London.
- Buczaki, S. (2002) Fauna Britannica. Hamlyn, London.
- Jackson, A. (2002) Littorina littorea. Common periwinkle. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Sub-programme. [On-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. (November, 2003)
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
Edible periwinkle biology
The flat periwinkle grazes on detritus and microorganisms. It also feeds on green seaweeds such as sea lettuce (Ulva lactua) and species of Enteromorpha (2).
Breeding may take place throughout the year, but tends to vary depending on temperature (4). The sexes are separate (individuals are either male or female), and fertilisation occurs internally after copulation (2). Egg laying is timed to coincide with the spring tide; the eggs are laid in the sea in gelatinous capsules that usually contain around three eggs (although up to 9 eggs per capsule has been known) (4). The egg capsules float in the sea and free-swimming ‘veliger’ larvae hatch after a few days. After 6 weeks spent in the ocean, the larvae settle on the shore. The young periwinkles attain sexual maturity at two or three years of age and may live for up to five years (2).Top
Edible periwinkle rangeTop
Edible periwinkle habitatTop
Edible periwinkle status
Not threatened (2).Top
Edible periwinkle threats
This species is not threatened.Top
Edible periwinkle conservation
Find out more
For more on this species see:
Jackson, A. (2002) Littorina littorea. Common periwinkle. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Sub-programme. [On-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 27/11/2003]. Available on-line at:
AuthenticationThis information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: firstname.lastname@example.orgTop
More »Related species
Play the Team WILD game
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.