Purple Olive

Olivella biplicata





In regard to physical attributes, the purple olive snail has an elongated shell with purple accents at the anterior and posterior regions.  Coloration varies on the shell because some may be striped while others remain plain.  In addition, the pointed tip shell can get up to 3.5 cm within length.  A fun fact includes that the Olivella biplicata will cover the front of its shell with the foot to use as a plow for sand when burrowing.  The purple olive snail lives within the intertidal or subtidal regions, up to 50m within depth.  Meanwhile, the geographic distribution ranges from the shorelines of southern Alaska to Baja California, Mexico.  These snails are active at night in which during the day time the purple olive snail leaves a trail behind to a bump that results from burrowing (1).  Males will follow the females’ trails and temporarily glue themselves to the female shell during reproduction (2).  A defense mechanism includes an operculum that acts as a hard barrier in which the snail retracts itself into for protection.  A common predator of the Olivella biplicata includes moonsnails (1).  Food sources include kelp blades, live or dead animal material, and many small individuals will eat small detritus (2).


(1) “Purple Olive.” Biodiversity of the Central Coast, University of Victoria Environmental Studies, https://www.centralcoastbiodiversity.org/purple-olive-bull-olivella-biplicata.html.

(2) “Callianax biplicata (Sowerby, 1825).” WallaWalla, Dave Cowles, https://inverts.wallawalla.edu/Mollusca/Gastropoda/Prosobranchia/Order_Neogastropoda/Suborder_Rachiglossa/Family_Olividae/Olivella_biplicata.html.

(Photograph) (c) Ken-ichi Ueda, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC)


  • Rocky Intertidal Zone