Olive snail

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Olive snails, also known as olive shells and olives, scientific name Olividae, are a taxonomic family of medium to large predatory sea snails with smooth, shiny, elongated oval-shaped shells.[1]

Olive snail
Oliva kaleontina.jpg
live Vullietoliva kaleontina
Lettered olive 0015.jpg
Shells of Lettered olive, Oliva sayana
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Mollusca
Class: Gastropoda
Clade: Caenogastropoda
Clade: Hypsogastropoda
Clade: Neogastropoda
Superfamily: Olivoidea
Family: Olividae
Latreille, 1825

See text



The shells often show various muted but attractive colors, and may be patterned also. They are marine gastropod molluscs in the family Olividae within the main clade Neogastropoda.

Also see the Olivellidae, the dwarf olives, which were previously grouped within this family, but which now have their own family.


According to the Revised Classification, Nomenclator and Typification of Gastropod Families (2017)[2] the family Olividae consists of three subfamilies:[3]


Olive snails are found worldwide, in subtropical and tropical seas and oceans.


These snails are found on sandy substrates intertidally and subtidally.

Life habitsEdit

The olive snails are all carnivorous sand-burrowers. They feed mostly on bivalves and carrion and are known as some of the fastest burrowers among snails. They secrete a mucus similar to that of the Muricidae, from which a purple dye can be made.

Shell descriptionEdit

Physically the shells are oval and cylindrical in shape. They have a well-developed stepped spire. Olive shells have a siphonal notch at the posterior end of the long narrow aperture. The siphon of the living animal protrudes from the siphon notch.

The shell surface is extremely glossy because in life the mantle almost always covers the shell.[4][5]

The fossil recordEdit

Olive shells first appeared during the Campanian.[6]

Human useEdit

Olive shells are popular with shell collectors, and are also often made into jewelry and other decorative items.

The shell of the lettered olive, Oliva sayana, is the state shell of South Carolina in the United States.


Genera within the family Olividae include:

Genera brought into synonymy
  • Hiatula Swainson, 1831: synonym of Agaronia Gray, 1839
  • Lintricula H. Adams & A. Adams, 1853: synonym of Olivancillaria d'Orbigny, 1840
  • Porphyria Röding, 1798 : synonym of Oliva Bruguière, 1789
  • Scaphula Swainson, 1840: synonym of Olivancillaria d'Orbigny, 1840
Lettered olive, Oliva sayana

See alsoEdit

  • Olivella This genus has now been moved to the Olivellidae according to the taxonomy of Bouchet & Rocroi.


  1. ^ a b Bouchet, P.; Gofas, S. (2012). Olividae. Accessed through: World Register of Marine Species at http://www.marinespecies.org/aphia.php?p=taxdetails&id=23082 on 2012-06-11
  2. ^ Bouchet, Philippe; Rocroi, Jean-Pierre; Hausdorf, Bernhard; Kaim, Andrzej; Kano, Yasunori; Nützel, Alexander; Parkhaev, Pavel; Schrödl, Michael; Strong, Ellen E. (2017). "Revised Classification, Nomenclator and Typification of Gastropod and Monoplacophoran Families". Malacologia. 61 (1–2): 1–526. doi:10.4002/040.061.0201. ISSN 0076-2997.
  3. ^ "WoRMS - World Register of Marine Species - Olividae Latreille, 1825". www.marinespecies.org. Retrieved 2018-10-09.
  4. ^ Washington State University Tri-Cities Natural History Museum (2001). Family: Olividae (Olive Shells). Retrieved on 12 July 2006.
  5. ^ Vermeij, Geerat J (3 April 1995). A Natural History of Shells. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-00167-7. pps. 89, 100, 114.
  6. ^ Vermeij, Geerat J (1 September 1993). Evolution and Escalation. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-00080-8. p.182.
  7. ^ Charles L. Powell II, Fred Vervaet and David Berschauer, A taxonomic review of California Holocene Callianax (Olivellidae. Gastropoda. Mollusca) based on shell characters; The Festivus March 2020, special issue

Further readingEdit

  • Hunon Ch., Hoarau A. & Robin A. (2009). Olividae (Mollusca, Gastropoda).

External linksEdit