Category: MOLLUSKS

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Mollusca
Class: Cephalopoda
Order: Sepiida
Family: Sepiidae (Cuttlefishes, shell internalized)

Genus/species: Sepia bandensis

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS:. Sepia bandensis has 8 arms with rows of suckers along each and 2 feeding tentacles. It moves by the undulation of lateral fins that surround the body. Cuttles have an internal shell within their bodies that they can fill with more or less gas to create neutral buoyancy. The cuttlebone is often collected and used as a calcium supplement, beak sharpener, and all-purpose toy for caged birds.
Like most cephalopods, cuttlefish have 3 hearts. Two hearts pump blood to the gills, and a central heart pumps oxygenated blood to the body.
Length: 5 cm – 10 cm (2 in – 4 in)


DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: The Indo-Pacific region, including the Philippines, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea.
Found in shallow coastal waters near or on coral reefs or sandy substrates.


DIET IN THE WILD: Crustaceans and fish. The Cuttlefish changes colors and patterns as it approaches prey then ejects its feeding tentacles to capture its prey with its suckers and eating it with a parrot-like beak and a radula. Active diurnally.

ACADEMY DIET: Shrimp and crab (M Avila, staff biologist)


LONGEVITY: Life span: 6 mos. to 3 yrs.

eggs below


REMARKS: Masters of camouflage, cuttlefish and most cephalopods can change their colors, shapes and textures in seconds to avoid predators and blend into their surroundings. They have keen vision, but are color blind.

They also produce large amounts of ink, both as a decoy and foul-tasting deterrent. Known as sepia ink, after the genus name of cuttlefish, it was a dye once prized by artists.

The Steinhart Aquarium is the first institution in the U.S. to breed dwarf cuttlefish. To date, (2010) more than 350 have hatched at the Academy, most of which have been sent to other aquaria and research institutions. Quote from Rich Ross, Academy biologist and cuttlefish breeder extraordinaire: Over time, [cuttlefish] learn to recognize and respond to you, and will often greet you when you walk into the room (or maybe they just know you bring the food). 

Color of Life note: Cuttlefish are excellent examples of cryptic coloration. Chromatophores in the cuttlefish skin are controlledneurologically, allowing almost immediate color change disappearing into its background right before your eyes.
Ref: California Academy Color of Life exhibit


California Academy Color of Life exhibit

The Marine Biology Coloring Book 2nd Ed. Thomas Niesen 2000

EOL Encyclopedia of Life

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Phylum: Mollusca
Class: Gastropoda (slugs, snails, nudibranchs, abalone)
Order: Archaeogastropoda (sea snails)
Family: Haliotidae (abalones)

Genus/species: Haliotis rufescens

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: The red abalone is a large limpet-like snail with a flattened and rounded shell. The shell can reach up to 30 cm (11.8 in) in length and is usually brick-red and overgrown with fouling organisms. Color varies with diet and varies between aquamarine, green, or white. Water enters anteriorly through row of holes parallel to the rim of the shell and exits posteriorly carrying waste products and gametes. When in danger, the abalone clamps its shell tightly to the substrate, protecting soft parts of its body. The shell’s color is influenced by the animal’s diet. The red color is from the pigment phycoerythrin consumed in its red alga diet. Color varies with a diet of brown algae (varies between aquamarine, green, or white).

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Red abalone are found from Oregon to Baja California. They are uncommon in the lower intertidal zone in rocky areas with heavy surf. Most are now found at six to 17 m (20 to 56 ft) depth in central California.


DIET IN THE WILD: Small abalones feed on diatoms and algae; larger animals browse the seaweeds. Red abalone eat algae, especially red and brown species. Usually foraging at night, they trap drifting pieces of algae (kelp) with the tentacles that extend from the foot. The algae is then carried by the foot to the mouth, and is torn and consumed with by the radula.

flickr Feeding Video


PREDATORS: Sea stars, crabs, octopuses, sea otters and human divers are among the abalone’s primary predators.

REPRODUCTION: After spawning takes place, fertilized eggs sink. Larvae develop in the plankton until they settle to the bottom, metamorphose, and begin to graze. Growth slows with increasing size and age. Mortality is very high in the planktonic stages. Mature individuals can live more than 20 years.

REMARKS: Red abalone are highly endangered due to overexploitation by the abalone fishery. The population plummeted in the late twentieth century, but poaching continues to be a problem. California passed many strict regulations to protect the red abalone: abalone smaller than 20 cm (8 in) in diameter are protected, the canning of abalone is prohibited, and the shipment of fresh or frozen meat out of California is prohibited. Red abalone is the only species that can still be fished. Aquacultured abalone is now increasingly available.

Abalone blood is blue-green and cannot clot making injury possibly fatal.

Red Abalone Shell19600303421_7eae835178_z

Color of Life note: Iridescence is caused by two or more semi-transparent, inorganic and/or organic surfaces that cause multiple light reflections. An example found in our tidepool is the Red Abalone inner shell surface which produces an impressive vibrant luster when exposed to light.  The aragonite and conchiolin secreted by the abalone in forms a crystalline structure that reflects light, causing the shell’s iridescence. The inner surface of the shell is known as mother-of-pearl, or nacre. Ref: California Academy of Sciences, Color of Life Exhibit 2015   Jewelry is still made from abalone shells and is quite popular.                        Ref:


Other references

Marine Biology Coloring book, T.M. Nielsen, 2nd Ed. Harper Resource 1982, 2000.

Encyclopedia of Life

Monterey Bay Aquarium…

California Fish and Game

Ron’s flickr


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Mollusca:
Class: Gastropoda  (snails and slugs)
Order: Vetigastropoda:  (primitive group of sea snails)
Family: Trochidae (“top snails”, because in many species the shell is shaped like a toy top)

Genus/species: Norrisia norrisi

Red Foot Moon Snail Norrisia norrisi IMG_7601

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Smooth brown shell that ranges in size from a few mm to 55mm or 2 inches.

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Eastern Pacific found on kelp from Point Conception to Baja California, May live in water 15-24°C or 59 to 75°F.

DIET IN THE WILD: The Norris’ top snail feeds mainly on brown algae but in aquariums they use their file-like tongue or radula to eat most types of algae helping to keep the aquarium clean.

PREADATORS: Commonly eaten by seastars.

REMARKS: Used to help control algae in the Philippine coral reef. PR04



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Phylum: Mollusca
Class: Cephalopoda
Order: Octopoda
Family: Octopodidae.

Genus/species: Amphioctopus marginatus


The main body (mantle) is small to medium-sized, 5–8 cm (15 cm [6 in] including arms) in length. The arms are usually dark with contrasting white suckers. They have only soft bodies with no internal skeleton with a hard parrot-like beak allowing them to hide in very small spaces.

The tropical western Pacific and coastal waters of the Indian Ocean on sandy bottoms.

DIET: Shrimp, crabs, and clams. A.marginatus uses its sharp parrot-like beak to crush the shells of its prey. Shells of prey that are difficult to pull or bite open can be “drilled” in order to gain access to the soft tissue: salivary secretions soften the shell, and a tiny hole is created with the radula (a rasp-like structure of tiny teeth used for scraping food particles off a surface). The octopus then secretes a toxin that paralyzes the prey and begins to dissolve it. The shell is pulled apart and the soft tissues are consumed.

REPRODUCTION: Octopus reproduction strategy provides a counterpoint to the male sacrifice of the flower mantis and the bird-eater tarantula,  The coconut octopus female mates with the male, and retreats into a den where she lays her eggs. At this point, she no longer feeds, instead spending the rest of her now short life protecting her eggs from predators and continually cleaning and aerating them.  She dies shortly after the hatching of her eggs and their subsequent entry into the plankton.

Egg mass below


REMARKS: The species’ common name derives from this octopus’ habit of carrying around coconut shell halves, by fitting its body into the bowl and extending rigid arms from the coconut’s edge to the substrate and tiptoeing away in gait called “stilt-walking”  or bipedal walking.    

Below A. marginatus using a shell. 


The Steinhart is the first public aquarium in the U.S. to display the coconut octopus.  Our octopus was collected by Bart Shepherd, Curator of the Steinhart Aquarium, during a 2011 research expedition to the Philippines.



Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Mollusca
Class: Cephalopoda
Order: Octopoda
Family: Octopodidae

Genus/species: Octopus (No species name at the current time).

Note: octopus chierchiae is the lesser Pacific striped octopus and has been studied more extensively .


GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: This pigmy octopus has arms spans of some eight to 10 inches, Color varies. It can switch from a dark reddish hue to black with white stripes and spots in fluid waves and also assume different shapes, both flat and expanded. Thought to live in groups of up to 40 or more individuals in the wild.

Larger Pacific Striped Octopus  8584026008_f1f86341db_o

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Eastern Pacific off the coast of Central America. Found on sandy bottoms in intertidal areas.

DIET IN THE WILD: Shrimp, crabs and snails.Larger Pacific Striped Octopus IMG_6898

REPRODUCTION: Pairs of Larger Pacific Striped Octopuses live peacefully together in an aquarium, at times sharing a den. Mating is civil with a beak-to-beak, or sucker-to-sucker, position and their arms entwined for up to five minutes while the male inserts a sperm packet into the female. In contrast to other species which die after their first clutch of eggs this octopus lays many egg clutches in her lifetime.

REMARKS: Very rare, (Discovered 1991). Displayed only at the California Academy of Sciences.

Academy biologist Richard Ross, has spent the last 13 months raising and studying the behavior of this recently rediscovered species, along with Dr. Roy Caldwell of the University of California, Berkeley. They are currently studying the behavior of this species and working on a formal description and species name as well as are planning an expedition to observe them in their natural habitat in Nicaragua,


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California Academy of Sciences

California Academy of Sciences

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Mollusca
Class: Gastropoda
Family: Conidae

Genus/species: Conus marmoreus

Marble Cone Snail IMG_8764

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Shell length to 10 cm or 4 inches. Flat, noduled spire. Reticulated pattern of black or dark brown with white patches overall.

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Red Sea, Indo-Pacific in shallow water to 90 m or 300 ft in depth on coral reef platforms or lagoon pinnacles, as well as in sand, under rocks or sea grass.

DIET IN THE WILD: Molluscivore  A predator of predators; harpoons fishes, worms and other mollusks. Its “harpoon” is a single, specialized modified radula tooth equipped with a spearlike barbed tip. The barbed tooth has a groove through which the snail injects a neurotoxic peptide poison into its victim. The prey is paralyzed then the snail devours it.

Marble Cone Snail  Conus marmoreus (Conidae)

REMARKS: Small cone snails pose little danger to humans beyond a beelike sting; however, large cone snails inject enough toxin to be deadly. About 30 human deaths have been attributed to cone snail envenomation
Research on cone snail peptide conotoxin toxins is an active field and has resulted in a new highly effective painkiller recently approved by the FDA that, unlike opium-derived medications, has a low risk of addiction.

Venoms Cluster PR26


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Phylum Molluska, Order: Veneroida, Class: Bivalvia, Family: Veneridae

Venerupis philippinarum

DISTRIBUTION: Native to Japan, Korea and China.  Introduced to British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, Baja California and French Atlantic Coast, and Mediterranean coast..

APPEARANCE: Shell is usually cream or gray, sometimes with green or brown tones, and sometimes stained rusty or black (the latter typical of anoxic mud). It often has patterns of dark brown or black, overlapping, triangular markings  Smaller specimens (up to about 3 cm)  found in muddy sand on the east shore of  San Francisco Bay come in a remarkable variety of hues, including white, tan, yellow, blue and green, The interior of the shell is mostly white, often with dark purple or yellow staining near the hind end and the lower margins of the shell.

DIET: Filter feeder

REMARKS: Global aquaculture production of V. philippinarum is estimated at over 1 million tons/year with a value of around $1.5 billion.

MORTALITY: A variety of organisms have been observed feeding on Venerupis philippinarum on the Pacific coast, including the moon snail Euspira lewisii, the Atlantic oyster drill Urosalpinx cinerea, crabs, bat rays, flounder, sturgeon, willet, gulls, ducks and raccoons, and undoubtedly many others. The small pea crabs Pinnixa faba and Pinnixa littoralis are sometimes found living inside the shells of live Venerupis philippinarum.

At the Steinheart Aquarium V. philippinarum is found in the tidepool where starfishes feed on them in place of mussels which are harder to obtain.   SEE PHOTO BELOW . 

Ochre Sea Star Pisaster ochraceus consuming a Manila Clam.



Kingdom Animalia, Phylum Molluska, Class Gastropoda, Family Helicidae,

Genus/species:   Cornu aspersum aka Helix aspersa

DISTRIBUTON:  Native to the Mediterranean region and western Europe, from northwest Africa and Iberia east to Asia Minor, and north to the British Isles. Has become very abundant in all human-disturbed habitats in regions with a temperate climate.

APPEARANCE:  hard, thin calcareous shell 25–40 mm in diameter and 25–35 mm high, with four or five whorls. The shell is somewhat variable in color and shade but is generally dark brown or chestnut with yellow stripes, flecks, or streaks. The body is soft and slimy, brownish-grey, and is retracted entirely into the shell when the animal is inactive or threatened.  The head bears four tentacles, the upper two of which have eye-like light sensors, and the lower two of which are smaller, tactile and olfactory sensory structures.

DIET: Herbivore and has a wide range of host plants (It feeds on plants only). It feeds on numerous types of fruit trees, vegetable crops, garden flowers, and cereals.

REPRODUCTION/DEVELOPMENT:  Like other Pulmonata, C.aspera is a hermaphrodite, producing both male and female gametes. Mating garden snails shoot at one another with long, sharp “love” darts. If a dart hits its mark, it improves that snail’s odds of reproduction.  For garden snails, there’s more to sex than shooting darts. But “he” can’t fertilize “her” own eggs, so it must mate with another. Courtship takes hours as two snails rub bodies, exchange “love” bites and wave the tentacles on their heads.


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3-6-12 Banana Slug from Ron’s Animal Attraction Series (Exhibit)

Phylum Molluska, Class Gastropoda, Family Arionidae

Ariolimax californicus

DISTRIBUTION; Central California

HABITAT:  Require moist surroundings. Damp forest floors and crevices in rotting trees.

APPEARANCE: Snails that have lost their external shell. Banana slugs derive their common name from their bright yellow color, although they can also be green, black, brown, or white.  Have two sets of retractable tentacles on the head. The first and larger pair is used for sensing light; the smaller pair detects odors. The mouth is on the underside of the head with the anal and genital pores close by.

DIET: Detritivores and herbivores, they eat dead and decomposing plant and animal matter, including feces. They also eat living plants, particularly mushrooms.

REPRODUCTION/DEVELOPMENT: As hermaphrodites, each individual has both male and female organs. While they are known to self-fertilize, for the most part they cross-fertilize.  Courtship behavior of the banana slug is elaborate, with both partners engaged in ritualized bouts of lunging, nipping, and sideswiping with their tails until the two eventually line up side by side, genital pore to genital pore. The pair may intertwine for several hours before copulation begins. Each pair alternately releases and receives sperm, which is stored until the eggs are laid and fertilized in the rainy season.

Separation is even more dramatic than copulation since the slugs penises often as long their bodies may become entangled. The pair may resort to apophallation, a fancy term for the deliberate amputation of the penis with one or the other copulating individual gnawing off his or his partner’s penis. The dismembered slug, unable to deliver sperm, functions solely as a female.

MORTALITY/LONGEVITY:  Predators include birds, raccoons, snakes, and salamanders. Life span is thought to be 3–6  years. 



KINGDOM   Animalia 

PHYLUM   Mollusca 

CLASS  Cephalopoda 

ORDER   Sepiida 

FAMILY  Sepiidae   

GENUS/SPECIES   Sepia latimanus 




 They are found in waters up to 30 m near tropical coral reefs.


Large fascinating cephalopods with oval mantles  and crescent-shaped clubs .  This species can reach up to 50 cm in mantle length and weigh up to 10 kg. Like many cephalopods, broadclub cuttlefishes can be seen displaying a range of colors and textures. Commonly they are light brown or yellowish with white mottled markings. Males are sometimes dark brown, particularly during courtship and mating. Their arms have longitudinal white bands that appear as broad white blotches when extended. Some of their arms have longitudinal brown bands that extend to their heads. Their dorsal (upper) mantle can sometimes be seen with a saddle mark with small white and brown spots. Their dorsal mantle also has narrow brown transverse bands, and bold, white, transverse stripes and spots. Their eyes are yellow around the ventral (lower) margins and their fins are pale with white, transverse stripes extending onto their mantle and narrow, white bands along their outer margins.

Sepia latimanus  has a variety of different sucker sizes, some that are significantly larger than others. Their cuttlebone is bluntly rounded on either end, with a convex dorsal (curved upper) surface that flattens at the anterior (front) end. Their dorsal mantle is also covered with numerous large papillae and elongate papillae along the sides adjacent to base of each fin.


Hunt during the day and appear to mesmerize prey with its rhythmic colored bands. They feed on small fishes and crustaceans.


 Sepia latimanus  is an important species to fisheries throughout their range and are taken by trawls, hand lines, and spears. They are also caught as bycatch in southeast Asian trawl fisheries.

 LOCATION: Not currently on exhibit 7-12-12


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