Atlantic oyster drill

Atlantic oyster drill
Urosalpinx cincerea (Say, 1822)

Atlantic (or "Eastern") oyster drills are fairly rare on S. Hutchinson Island beaches.

Atlantic Oyster Drill, S. Hutchinson Island, January 2121

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Urosalpinx cinerea
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Atlantic oyster drill

Scientific classification
Kingdom:     Animalia
Phylum:     Mollusca
Class:     Gastropoda
(unranked):     clade Caenogastropoda
clade Hypsogastropoda
clade Neogastropoda
Superfamily:     Muricoidea
Family:     Muricidae
Subfamily:     Ocenebrinae
Genus:     Urosalpinx
Species:     U. cinerea
Binomial name
Urosalpinx cinerea
(Say, 1822)

Fusus cinereus Say, 1822

Urosalpinx cinerea, common name the eastern oyster drill or Atlantic oyster drill, is a species of small predatory sea snail, a marine gastropod mollusk in the family Muricidae, the murexes or rock snails.

They use chemoreception[2] in their environment and are found to be sessile and encrusting organisms.[3] Microscopic particles released by prey are carried through the sea water and captured by the Atlantic Oyster Drill.[4] This animal is not physically able to close itself from its surrounding environment because of its siphonal canal.[5]

This species is a serious problem in commercial oyster beds, and it has been accidentally introduced well outside its natural range.


This snail is endemic to the Atlantic coast of North America, from Nova Scotia to Nassau Sound in[6] in Florida. It has been accidentally introduced with oyster spat to Northern Europe and to the West Coast of North America from California to Washington.[7] They range in areas with salinity and temperature changing seasonally and with the tidal currents.[8]

This species lives from low tide down to a depth of 25 feet. Its surroundings are rocky and shell beds.[3] It inhabits the lower third of the littoral zone, therefore it is sheltered from any waves the ocean produces.[6]
Life habits

As indicated by its common name, this predatory snail drills through the shells of living oysters and consumes them. Its surroundings are rocky and shell beds.[3] It inhabits the lower third of the littoral zone, therefore it is sheltered from any waves the ocean produces.[6] It selects its food of choice by the odor of the prey.[3] Once he embraces the barnacle or mussel with his foot, he drills through the shell.[2] It feeds on many different species of invertebrates. A few favorites are the barnacle Balanus balanoides and the mussel Mytilus edulis. Food supply is mainly found in intertidal areas in the Atlantic region.[6] The Atlantic Oyster Drill finds its food by smell. They are found to be more responsive to living prey than to prey that has been killed recently in a lab.[4] But there is still no preference when it comes to the prey species or age.[4]

Just like any other animal, ecological factors affect the growth of an individual. The type of food, amount of food, and the amount of time given for a species to grow are all important factors.[6] Chloride and sodium, inorganic ions, are some of the major effectors of blood in marine and estuarine invertebrates, including the Atlantic oyster drill.[5]

They range in size, but male and female oyster drills average 24 millimeters and 28 millimeters, respectively. Not only are females longer, but they are also taller than their males[9]. Almost all Atlantic oyster drills reach their largest size after two full growing seasons. About 70% of their size is reached within this time span. In the next four or so years to come, there is little or no increase in size anymore.[6] Unfortunately, there is no protected way to check the sex of these gastropods. Their shell must be crushed in order to see the genitalia using a microscope. Although some females possess a small vestigial formation that may look like a penis, other parts are used to confirm the sex. Finding the egg capsule gland, ovary, and any sperm ingesting glands make it easier to identify the oyster drill as a female.[9]
Human relevance

Due to their ability of "drilling" into shells, the destruction of their nature can cost millions of dollars every single year.[8]

This snail is a serious problem in commercial oyster farming:

    "Next to the sea star, this snail is the worst enemy the ... [oyster fisher men] ... have to contend with. ...Settling upon a young bivalve, the oyster drill quickly bores a neat round hole through a valve, making expert use of its sandpaperlike radula. Through this perforation the oyster drill is able to insert its long proboscis and consume the soft parts of the oyster."[10]

Advocates of making use of bycatch, rather than discarding it, have promoted the oyster drill as a food, similar to escargot.[11]

MolluscaBase (2020). Bieler R, Bouchet P, Gofas S, Marshall B, Rosenberg G, La Perna R, Neubauer TA, Sartori AF, Schneider S, Vos C, ter Poorten JJ, Taylor J, Dijkstra H, Finn J, Bank R, Neubert E, Moretzsohn F, Faber M, Houart R, Picton B, Garcia-Alvarez O (eds.). "Urosalpinx cinerea (Say, 1822)". MolluscaBase. World Register of Marine Species. Retrieved 1 April 2020.
Rittschof, Dan; Williams, Leslie G.; Brown, Betsy & Carriker, Melbourne R. (1983). "Chemical attraction of newly hatched oyster drills". Biological Bulletin. 164 (3): 493–505. doi:10.2307/1541258. JSTOR 1541258.
Williams, Leslie G.; Rittschof, Dan; Brown, Betsy & Carriker, Melbourne R. (1983). "Chemotaxis of oyster drills Urosalpinx cinerea to competing prey odors". Biological Bulletin. 164 (3): 536–548. doi:10.2307/1541261. JSTOR 1541261.
Blake, John W. (1960). "Oxygen consumption of bivalve prey and their attractiveness to the gastropod, Urosalpinx cinerea". Limnology and Oceanography. 5 (3): 273–280. CiteSeerX doi:10.4319/lo.1960.5.3.0273. JSTOR 2833015.
Turgeon, Kenneth W. (1976). "Osmotic adjustment in an estuarine population of Urosalpinx cinerea (Say, 1822) (Muricidae, Gastropoda)". Biological Bulletin. 151 (3): 601–614. doi:10.2307/1540509. JSTOR 1540509. PMID 1016669.
Franz, David R. (1971). "Population age structure, growth and longevity of the marine gastropod Urosalpinx cinerea Say". Biological Bulletin. 140 (1): 63–72. doi:10.2307/1540026. JSTOR 1540026. PMID 5543345.
Abbott, R. Tucker, 1986. Seashells of North America, St. Martin's Press, New York.
Manzi, John J. (1970). "Combined effects of salinity and temperature on the feeding, reproductive, and survival rates of Eupleura caudata (Say) and Urosalpinx cinerea (Say) (Prosobranchia: Muricidae)". Biological Bulletin. 138 (1): 35–46. doi:10.2307/1540289. JSTOR 1540289.
Griffith, George W. & Castagna, Michael (1962). "Sexual dimorphism in oyster drills of Chincoteague Bay, Maryland-Virginia". Chesapeake Science. 3 (3): 215–217. doi:10.2307/1351000. JSTOR 1351000.
Abbott, R. Tucker & Violet French Morris (1995). Shells of the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. Houghton Mifflin Co. p. 211. ISBN 0618164391.

    Engelhardt, Elizabeth, "An Oyster by Any Other Name", Southern Spaces, 18 April 2011

External links

    U. cinerea at
    MBL Marine Organisms Database page

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