Dog whelk by Tabitha Pearman 1/1

Dog Whelk Nucella lapillus

This small sea snail is best recognised by its thick shell, which is pale in colour and is rounded with a pointed spire, with spiral ridges along the surface.

Conservation status

Dog whelks are excellent indicators of specific marine pollutants. Tributyl tin (TBT) is a paint which has been used to get rid of crustaceans and other organisms that attach themselves to the hulls of boats and ships. Unfortunately when ingested by whelks it results in females developing male organs and becoming sterile. New legislation has now been passed restricting the use of TBT meaning that the populations of whelks which were affected by this substance are now recovering. That being said, the whelk is not under threat in Norfolk and UK waters.

Details

Did you know?

In medieval times the dog whelk was used to produce beautiful red /violet and purple dyes. Fabric for weaving could be dyed directly from the opened whelk, the dye coming from mucus in a gland known as the hypobranchial gland. This chemical substance passes from yellow to green and then on to blue, reds and purples when exposed to air and sunlight. Ancient dyes were made in a vat process, the evidence for which can still be found in Ireland and the Middle East.

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August 2017
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