Owl Limpet

Lottia gigantea

Order: 

Patellogastropoda

Family: 

Lottidae

 

The Lottia gigantean is a mollusk with an eroded shell that is dark brown with white markings.  The shell maintains an oval shape that can get up to 100mm.  The Owl Limpet gets the common name from the owl-shaped markings within bluish muscle scar (1).  While the general habitat includes the mid and high rocky intertidal zone, the geographic distribution ranges from Northern California to Baja California (2).  The specific niche includes mussel beds and under rocks to prevent desiccation from the sun and avoid wave action.  Within the niche, the Lottia gigantean remains territorial and defends clearing of thick algal film.  As the body size of the mollusk increases, the owl limpet transforms from male to female.  From this, the limpet is a considered a protandrous hermaphrodite (1).  The feeding territories are very vulnerable to oil spills and commercial harvesting of the L. gigantea remains illegal within California (2).

 

(1) “Lottia gigantean | MARINe.” Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UC Santa Cruz, https://www.eeb.ucsc.edu/pacificrockyintertidal/target/target-species-lottia.html.

(2) Fenberg, P. B., M. E. Hellberg, L. Mullen, and K. Roy. 2010. Genetic diversity and population structure of the sizeselectively harvested owl limpet, Lottia gigantea. Marine Ecology 31:574–583.

Habitat:

  • Rocky Intertidal Zone