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Marine Wildlife  Common Whelks

Common Whelk - Photo  Copyright 2000 Gary Bradley
Photo: G. Bradley

UK Safari Tip:
Find out more about marine wildlife with this terrific Collins field guide - click here

Latin name: Buccinum undatum

Size: Grow to a length of around 10cm.

Distribution: Found all round the UK coast.

Months seen: All year round.

Habitat: They live in the sand and mud fairly close to the shore.

Food: Mollusks, worms and crustaceans

Special features: The common whelk is a familiar sight around the coast of Britain, although it is normally just the empty shell (as above) which is seen. The shells live on long after the whelk has died, and often become homes for hermit crabs.

The whelk is actually a 'gastropod', which means it has a large, strong flat foot to move around on. They are also equipped with a thin siphon, which is used for breathing and feeling around for food.

Whelk EggsThe picture on the left shows what appears to be a lump of bubble wrap, but in fact these are the empty egg cases of whelks. The whelk lays large clumps of eggs on rocks in the sea, and some get washed up onto beaches.

If you find some which are grey (like the ones above) the whelks have already hatched, but if they are pale yellow in colour, the whelks are still inside. You will normally only find live ones during the breeding season which is in January.

Did You Know?
Baby whelks are cannibalistic. The first few to hatch will eat their still developing brothers and sisters!

Track Down More Info

UK Safari Marine Wildlife Section

Click Here The Blue Planet - 3 DVD Box Set
An epic series that took five years to complete. Explores every aspect of marine life from coastal marshes to deep-sea trenches and polar waters to tropical reefs.

  2006 G. Bradley. All Rights Reserved