Learn About Abalones & Relatives

map showing distributions of 8 species of abalone Haliotis on the west coast of North AmericaThere are 8 species of abalones on this coast. They were once abundant but, owing to their large size, ease of collection from shallow waters, tastiness, and high market value, they have been largely overfished – some to alarmingly low levels. White and black abalone are endangered species, while pink and green are at great risk. Commercial fishing for abalone Haliotis kamtschatkana in B.C. has been closed since 1990 and that for H. rufescens south of San Francisco, California since 1997. Currently the only legal fisheries on the west coast is a recreational skin-diving one in northern California for red abalone that is closely regulated. Poaching is common for most or all species. Distributions of the 8 species are shown on the map (courtesy of NOAA, U.S. Government).

Several other related types of gastropods, including turban and top shells are included in this section.

NOTE the English word “abalone” is derived from Sp. “aulon” or “aulone”, but it is not known what they were called in Britain before this adoption. Another English word for abalone, originating in the Channel Islands, is “ormer”. It is derived from the Fr. “oreille-de-mer”, meaning “sea ear”, in reference to the shape of the shell. The genus Haliotis also means “sea ear” in Greek. Its first occurrence in English literature was not until 1752 (Sir J. Hill referring to it as “the great ear shell”), so possibly prior to the 18th Century “ormer” was the name used in most or all areas of Great Britain

NOTE gastropods may be the most familiar of all marine invertebrates, not just because of their variety and “collectability” of their shells, but because of the diversity of habitats in which they live. They inhabit extreme habitats such as deep-sea trenches and hot deserts, and live in soil, on trees, and in lakes, streams, and ocean. Most are shelled (which largely explains their diversity of habitats), but others lack shells or have partial shells. For these reasons, plus the fact that the central “character” in the story is a winkle, gastropods are well represented in the ODYSSEY. Replication between the various groups, however, is minimal, and what is emphasised for each taxon are the features that make its members unique

ANIMATION of snail meeting an ABALONE
2010 Thomas Carefoot

snail's map showing click-on images of invertebrates dealt with in the educational website A SNAIL'S ODYSSEY

To learn about west-coast ABALONES: select a topic from the Mollusca > Abalones & relatives menu at the top of the page

OR: play the ANIMATION of the snail meeting the ABALONE

OR, if you want to see other animations: follow the snail on its ODYSSEY by CLICKING on any X-marked invertebrate on the map

Phylum Mollusca (lit. “soft” or “shellfish” L.)

Class Gastropoda (lit. “stomach foot” G.), referring to the body structure of viscera lying overtop of the muscular foot

SubClass Orthogastropoda (lit. “straight gastropod” G.), referring not to the shape of the shell but to aspects of their  phylogeny

SuperOrder Vetigastropoda1

Family Haliotidae (lit. “sea” G.), including abalones (Haliotis)

Family Trochidae (lit. “wheel” G.), including top and turban shells such as Calliostoma, Chlorostoma2 (Tegula), Promartynia (Tegula), Lirularia3

Family Turbinidae (lit. "spinning top" L.), including top shells Pomaulax (Astraea) gibberosa

NOTE1   another SuperFamily of Vetigastropoda, the Fissurelloidea, including keyhole limpets Diodora, is considered elsewhere in the LEARNABOUT LIMPETS & RELATIVES

NOTE2   the handy past classification of 4 west-coast species into the genus Tegula has undergone a few changes, leading to confusion. There now appears to be 3 genera: Chlorostoma (auretincta, brunnea, ligulata, and montereyi), Promartynia (pulligo), and Tegula (funebralis).  References to these species in the ODYSSEY may sometimes include “Tegula” in brackets (e.g., Chlorostoma (Tegula) funebralis) or "Chlorostoma" in brackets (e.g., Tegula (Chlorostoma) funebralis) and/or may just use the same name as used by the author(s)

NOTE3   the genus Margarites is now split into 2 new genera: Lirularia and Pupillaria