Know your fauna: shells

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The Caribbean Four-tooth Nerite

A Nerita versicolor in search of food

A Nerita versicolor in search of food

Marine snails which are part of the Nerite family often have small teethlike protrusions which can often be found on the mouth plate (columella fold), the calcerous part at the opening at the bottom of the shell where the slug’s body moves to the outside. In the Caribbean Four-tooth Nerite or Nerita versicolor four teeth can be observed at the aperture and there are also several smaller ones on the outer lip. The shell colors are very diverse and range from cream to brown with various checkered patterns and as such can make identifying the species from above quit hard. The animals are not rare, and usually you will find several individuals together on limestone rocks lying in the surf on the south coast and north coast of the island of Curaçao as well as Bonaire and Aruba. They can withstand periods of drying out and are therefore often found on stones which have dried out after a few hours of low tide. The snails are not active during the day, and only go in search for food in the evenings.

Caribbean Four-tooth nerite, view from above

Caribbean Four-tooth nerite, view from above

The Four-tooth Nerite is considered mature when it has a size of 16 to 19 millimeters and usually will not grow larger than 25 millimeters. The animals can reproduce throughout the year. Males fertilize the females with sperm packets which are stored by the females for later use.
The species can be found throughout the Caribbean and can also be found in Florida and Bermuda.

 

 

Bottom view, the four teeth are easily distinguisable

Bottom view, the four ‘teeth’ are easily distinguishable

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michelle da Costa Gomez

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