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Lunar dovesnail, Astyris lunata. Photograph courtesy South carolina DNR/SERTC.

Species Name: Astyris lunata Say, 1826
Common Name: Lunar Dovesnail
Synonymy: Nasa lunata Say, 1826
Pyrene lunata Say, 1826
Columbella lunata Say, 1826
Mitrella lunata. Say, 1826
Buccinum lunata Say, 1826
Buccinum pusillum Pfeiffer, 1840
Mitrella duclosiana d'Orbigny, 1842
Columbella duclosiana d'Orbigny, 1842
Buccinum wheatleyi De Kay, 1843
Columbella pusilla Sowerby I, 1844
Buccinum zonale Gould, 1848
Columbella dissimilis Stimpson, 1851
Columbella gouldiana Stimpson, 1851
Columbella spirantha Ravenel, 1859

    Kingdom Phylum/Division Class: Order: Family: Genus:
    Animalia Mollusca Gastropoda Neogatropoda Columbellidae Astyris

    Species Description

    Astyris lunata belongs to the order Gastropoda. Members of this order have a shell that is lacking a nacreous layer, radula with 1-3 teeth, and a mantle that forms a siphon (Brusca and Brusca 1990). The color of the shell is brown to yellowish-brown grading from end to center with three series of deep-red or dark brownish-red hook-shaped bands in the middle and at the ends.


    Regional Occurrence

    The lunar dovesnail is found along the western Atlantic coast from Nova Scotia to Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, in the Caribbean and as far south as Brazil at depths from 0 to 52 m.

    IRL Distribution

    In the Indian River Lagoon, the lunar dovesnail mainly occurs in high densities in seagrass beds (Howard 1987).


    Age, Size, Lifespan

    The maximum reported size for Astyris lunata is 5.8 mm.


    The lunar dovesnail usually occurs at high densities when they are present.


    Strombus gigas moves by a unique shell-thrusting motion called "leaping" (Hesse 1980). The queen conch uses its claw-like operculum to dig into the sand and then "pole" forward by extending the foot (Rupert and Barnes 1994). This is a very different mode of transportation from other gastropods.


    Astyris lunata have separate sexes and males have a penis (Brusca and Brusca 1990). Reproduction occurs by copulation. Members of the family Columbellidae lay egg capsules with multiple eggs per capsule.


    There are no specific studies addressing the embryology of the lunar dovesnail. For many species in the family Columbellidae, embryos develop in the egg case and crawling juveniles emerge from the egg capsule.



    Astyris (Mitrella) lunata oxygen rate decreases steadily as seawater temperatures decrease to from 25°C to 5°C and when temperatures are increased above 30°C. Mortality occurs quickly at sea water temperatures above 35°C (McMahon and Russell-Hunter 1977).


    There are no specific studies addressing the salinity tolerance of the lunar dovesnail.


    Trophic Mode

    The lunar dovesnail preys upon encrusting ascidians and byrozoans (Osman et al. 1992, Osman and Whitlatch 1995, Stachowitz and Whitlatch 2005). A study of a population of Astyris (Mitrella) lunata from Long Island Sound suggests that high densities of the lunar dovesnail can influence recruitment and success of larval ascidians (Osman and Whitlatch 1995).

    Associated Species

    Astyris lunata is commonly found associated with Anachis lafresnayi on the red alga Chondrus crispus in southern New England (Stachowitz and Whitlatch 2005). These two gastropods appear to keep the surface of C. crispus free from overgrowth by fouling organisms. The lunar dovesnail is also found as an epibiont on loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) in mats of the green algae Bryopsis plumose occurring on the posterior margins of the turtle carapace (Frick et al. 2000).


    No information is available at this time


    Academy of Natural Sciences Malacolog Version 4.1.0 A Database of Western Atlantic Marine Mollusca. Available online.

    Brusca RC and GJ Brusca. 1990. Invertebrates. Sinauer Associates, Inc., Sunderland, MA pg. 704.

    Frick MG, Williams KL, Veljacic D, Pierrard L, Jackson JA, and SE Knight. 2000. Newly documented epibiont species from nesting loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) in Georgia, USA. Marine Turtle Newsletter 88:3-5.

    Howard RK 1987. Diel variation in the abundance of epifauna associated with seagrasses of the Indian River, Florida, USA. Marine Biology 96:137-142.

    ITIS. International Taxonomy Inventory System. Available online.

    McMahon RF and WD Russell-Hunter. 1977. Temperature relations of aerial and aquatic respiration in six littoral snails in relation to their vertical zonation. Biological Bulletin 152:182-198.

    Osman RW and RB Whitlach. 1995. Predation on early ontogenetic life stages and its effect on recruitment into a marine epifaunal community. Marine Ecology Progress Series 117:111-126.

    Osman RW, RB Whitlach, and RJ Malatesta. 1992. Potential role of micro-predators in determining recruitment into a marine community. Marine Ecology Progress Series 83:35-43.

    Stachowitz JJ and RB Whitlach. 2005. Multiple mutualists provide complementary benefits to their seaweed host. Ecology 89:2418-2427.

Report by: Melany P. Puglisi, Smithsonian Marine Station
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Page last updated: October 1, 2008

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