Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce

Website Search Box

Advanced Search

Cluster of mangrove periwinkles, Littorina angulifera, on a mangrove branch in Belize. Photo courtesy of Candy Feller, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center.

Solitary L. angulifera on the red mangrove, Rhizophora mangle. Photo L. Holly Sweat, Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce.

Species Name: Littorina angulifera Lamarck, 1822
Common Name: Mangrove Periwinkle
Angulate Periwinkle
Synonymy: Littorina flavescens Philippi 1847
Littorina lineata Gmelin 1791
Littorina striata Schumacher 1817
Littorina strigata Philippi 1847

    Kingdom Phylum/Division Class: Order: Family: Genus:
    Animalia Mollusca Gastropoda Neotaenioglossa Littorinidae Littorina

    Species Description

    The mangrove periwinkle, Littorina angulifera, is a common intertidal snail in mangrove forests of the southeast United States. The shell color of L. angulifera varies from bluish white, orange to dull yellow, reddish brown to grayish brown (Andrews 1994). The shell is comprised of 6 whorls, with the body whorl about half of the total height of the snail. Darker dashes on the ribs of the shell are often fused to form stripes on the body whorl. The early whorls around the base bear regularly-spaced vertical white spots below the channeled sutures.

    Potentially Misidentified Species

    Many of the species of littorinids common to the western Atlantic are found in the IRL, including: the marsh periwinkle, Littorina irrorata; slender periwinkle, L. angustior; lineolate periwinkle, L. lineolata; white-spot periwinkle, L. meleagris; and the zebra periwinkle, L. ziczac. All of these species share a similar shell shape and an intertidal distribution.

    The marsh periwinkle attains a shell length of about 3.2 cm, and is elongate conic in shape, longer than it is wide (Andrews 1994). Coloration of the shell is dull grayish white with tiny dashes of reddish brown on the ridges of the spiral. Eight to ten gradually increasing flat whorls comprise the shell, with the body whorl measuring about half of the total height. The aperture is oval with a sharp outer tip and regular grooves on the inside edge.

    The slender periwinkle is relatively small, reaching a length of about 0.8 cm (Abbott 1974). The upper whorls of the shell are marked with 6-9 spiral lines, the sides of the foot are mottled black and gray, and the operculum is mostly round in shape.

    The lineolate periwinkle reaches a length of about 1.2 to 2.5 cm, has a gray background color on the shell with oblique zigzag lines of dark brown, and an apex of reddish brown (Andrews 1994). The shell is composed of 6-8 gradually increasing whorls, with the body whorl spanning more than half of the total length, and the suture between whorls is well marked. The pear-shaped aperture has a sharp, thin outer lip meeting the body whorl at an acute angle. Males are smaller and more strongly sutured then females.

    The white-spot periwinkle is also small like the slender periwinkle, measuring about 0.8 cm in length (Abbott 1974). The shell has a pointed spire with a thin periostracum or organic covering. The aperture is reddish brown and the exterior of the shell is brown with large, irregular white spots, often arranged in spiral roles.

    The zebra periwinkle has a shell length of about 1.3 cm, and is whitish with dark brown or black wavy stripes (Andrews 1994). The aperture is small and oval, and the operculum is chitinous. This species is often confused with L. lineolata, but has a lighter colored shell with a narrower apical angle than the lineolate periwinkle.


    Regional Occurrence & Habitat Preference

    The range of the mangrove periwinkle extends from Florida to Brazil, throughout the Caribbean and Bermuda (Abbot & Morris 1995, Tanaka & Maia 2006). The species is also found in the eastern Atlantic from Senegal to Angola (Merkt & Ellison 1998). As its common name implies, L. angulifera is a common inhabitant of mangrove forests, mainly above the water line on trunks and prop roots of the red mangrove, Rhizophora mangle (Kaplan 1988, Merkt & Ellison 1998).

    IRL Distribution

    The mangrove periwinkle can be found along the shores and spoil islands of the IRL on red mangrove branches and prop roots.


    Age, Size and Lifespan

    The maximum age of L. angulifera is unknown, and the lifespan can vary with food availability and environmental factors. The maximum reported length for the mangrove periwinkle is about 3 cm (eg. Kaplan 1988).


    Reproductive strategies are quite diverse within the Littorina genus. Some species release egg masses from with larvae hatch, others attach egg masses to hard substrata, and some brood their young until giving birth to larvae or juvenile snails (Ruppert & Barnes 1994). The mangrove periwinkle is considered ovoviviparous, internally brooding fertilized eggs and releasing planktonic larvae (Merkt & Ellison 1998, Tanaka & Maia 2006).


    Like many other mollusks, the mangrove periwinkle reproduces via a planktonic larva called a veliger (Kolipinski 1964). These larvae remain in the water column for 8-10 weeks until they reach the final stage, or pediveliger, at which time they search for a suitable location to settle and metamorphose into juvenile snails (Gallagher & Reid 1979).



    Little information is available concerning the thermal tolerance for L. angulifera, but the tropical to subtropical range of the species suggests it prefers warmer waters and air temperatures.


    The mangrove periwinkle is most commonly found in brackish estuaries (Andrews 1994), with larger individuals in less saline waters (Chaves 2002).


    Trophic Mode

    The mangrove periwinkle is herbivorous, grazing on algae and fungi (Kohlmeyer & Bebout 1986). The feeding structure, called a radula, varies in populations from different habitat types (Andrade & Solferini 2006). The radula is a belt of small teeth used to scrape food from hard surfaces (Ruppert & Barnes 1994).


    Few predators are documented for L. angulifera, but the snail is likely preyed upon by a variety of birds, fishes, large crabs and mammals.

    Associated Species

    No known obligate associations exist for L. angulifera. However, mangrove periwinkles are associated with several organisms common to mangroves and other intertidal areas. For extensive lists of other species found in the habitats in which L. angulifera occurs, please refer to the 'Habitats of the IRL's link at the left of this page.


    No information is available at this time


    Abbott, RT. 1974. American seashells: the marine Mollusca of the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of North America. Van Nostrand Reinhold Co. New York, NY. USA.

    Abbott, RT & PA Morris. 1995. A field guide to shells: Atlantic and Gulf coasts and the West Indies, 4th edition. Houghton Mifflin Co. Boston, MA. USA.

    Andrade, SCS & VN Solferini. 2006. The influence of size on the radula of Littoraria angulifera (Gastropoda: Littlorinidae). Malacologia. 49: 1-5.

    Andrews, J. 1994. A field guide to shells of the Florida coast. Gulf Publishing Co. Houston, Texas. USA. 182 pp.

    Chaves, AMR. 2002. Entre o seco e o molhado, do costão ao manguezal: distribuição de gastrópodes fa família Littorinidae em gradients vertical e horizontal no litoral do estado de São Paulo. Master's Thesis. Universidade Estadual de Campinas. Brazil.

    Gallagher, SB & GK Reid. 1979. Population dynamics and zonation in the periwinkle snail, Littorina angulifera, of the Tampa Bay, Florida region. Nautilus. 94: 162-178.

    Kaplan, EH. 1988. A field guide to southeastern and Caribbean seashores: Cape Hatteras to the Gulf coast, Florida, and the Caribbean. Houghton Mifflin Co. Boston, MA. USA. 425 pp.

    Kohlmeyer, J & B Bebout. 1986. On the occurrence of marine fungi in the diet of Littorina angulifera and observations on the behavior of the periwinkle. Mar. Ecol. 7: 333-343.

    Merkt, RE & AM Ellison. 1998. Geographic and habitat-specific variation of Littoraria (Littorinopsis) angulifera (Lamarck, 1822). Malacologia. 40: 279-295.

    Ruppert, EE & RD Barnes. Invertebrate zoology, 6th edition. Saunders College Publishing. Orlando, FL. USA. 1056 pp.

    Tanaka, MO & RC Maia. 2006. Shell morphological variation of Littoraria angulifera among and within mangroves in NE Brazil. Hydrobiologia. 559: 193-202.

Report by: LH Sweat, Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce
Submit additional information, photos or comments to
Page last updated: 21 August 2009

[ TOP ]