BIOTIC Species Information for Patella vulgata
Researched byJacqueline Hill Data supplied byMarLIN
Refereed byProf. Steve J. Hawkins
Scientific namePatella vulgata Common nameCommon limpet
MCS CodeW231 Recent SynonymsNone

PhylumMollusca Subphylum
Superclass ClassGastropoda
SubclassProsobranchia OrderPatellogastropoda
Suborder FamilyPatellidae
GenusPatella Speciesvulgata

Additional InformationNo text entered
Taxonomy References Howson & Picton, 1997, Hayward & Ryland, 1995b, Hayward et al., 1996, Campbell, 1994, Fish & Fish, 1996, Fretter & Graham, 1976,
General Biology
Growth formConical
Feeding methodHerbivore
Environmental positionEpifaunal
Typical food typesWide range of micro-organisms and algae, including Fucus spp., germlings, other algal sporelings and encrusting red algae. HabitFree living
BioturbatorNot relevant FlexibilityNone (< 10 degrees)
FragilityRobust SizeSmall-medium(3-10cm)
HeightInsufficient information Growth Rate2 mm/month
Adult dispersal potentialNone DependencyIndependent
General Biology Additional InformationFemale size at maturity
The species is protandric. Females are generally larger although small females are occasionally found. (Orton et al., 1956).

Growth rate
Value given is the maximum rate of increase in shell length observed in the first year of growth by Blackmore (1969). From the findings of many workers however, it is clear that growth fluctuates from year to year and from place to place to such an extent it is difficult to make general statements. Growth depends on temperature and is greatest in summer, least in winter. Growth also varies between microhabitats being greater under fucoids (17.1 mm per year) than on barnacles (14.7 mm per year) where locomotion and grazing are difficult. Growth rates and longevity are inversely related. Animals under fucoids grow rapidly and may live only 2-3 years whereas those on bare rock, with little food, grow slowly but may live 15-16 years. Limpets move about when the tide is in and the sea is not too rough. Animals are more active when submerged due to the lower energetic cost of moving on mucus when under water. Under thick fucoid covering or when conditions are damp, individuals may be found on the move after the tide has fallen.

Biology References Hayward & Ryland, 1995b, Hayward et al., 1996, Fish & Fish, 1996, Fretter & Graham, 1994, Fretter & Graham, 1976, Blackmore, 1969, Orton et al., 1956, Jones, 1948, Lewis & Bowman, 1975, Davis & Fleure, 1903, Thompson, 1980,
Distribution and Habitat
Distribution in Britain & IrelandFound on all British and Irish coasts wherever there is a suitable hard substratum.
Global distributionDistributed from north Norway to the Mediterranean.
Biogeographic rangeNot researched Depth rangeIntertidal
Distribution Additional InformationThis species extends from the Arctic Circle in Norway to Portugal. Distribution is limited in the north by the ability of newly-settled young to survive cold, and in the south by their ability to withstand heat and desiccation (Bowman & Lewis, 1977).

The upper limit of distribution on a shore is increased by shade and exposure. In some situations seasonal variations in sunshine causes a downward migration in spring/summer and an upward migration in autumn/winter, though the upward movement is not confined to individuals which originally occupied the high levels (Lewis, 1954). Spat settle in pools and damp places, becoming vagrant after emergence for the first 1-3 years and then settle down to a homing lifestyle, although swapping of home does occur. Adult Patella vulgata generally return after feeding to their so-called 'home scar', a depression in the rock formed by abrasion of the rock surface by the shell, resulting in a tighter fit to the rock and reduced risk of desiccation. Patella vulgata is tolerant of low salinities extending into the mouth of estuaries, surviving in salinities down to about 20 psu (Fish & Fish, 1996).

Substratum preferencesBedrock
Large to very large boulders
Small boulders
Crevices / fissures
Artificial (e.g. metal/wood/concrete)
Physiographic preferencesOpen coast
Strait / sound
Enclosed coast / Embayment
Biological zoneUpper Eulittoral
Mid Eulittoral
Lower Eulittoral
Wave exposureExtremely Exposed
Very Exposed
Moderately Exposed
Very Sheltered
Extremely Sheltered
Ultra Sheltered
Tidal stream strength/Water flowVery Strong (>6 kn)
Strong (3-6 kn)
Moderately Strong (1-3 kn)
Weak (<1 kn)
Very Weak (negligible)
SalinityVariable (18-40 psu)
Reduced (18-30 psu)
Full (30-40 psu)
Habitat Preferences Additional Information
Distribution References Hayward & Ryland, 1995b, Hayward et al., 1996, Campbell, 1994, Fish & Fish, 1996, Fretter & Graham, 1994, Fretter & Graham, 1976, Bowman & Lewis, 1977, Thompson, 1980, Lewis, 1954, Arnold, 1957,
Reproduction/Life History
Reproductive typeProtandrous hermaphrodite
Developmental mechanismPlanktotrophic
Reproductive SeasonSee additional information Reproductive LocationWater column
Reproductive frequencyAnnual protracted Regeneration potential No
Life span11-20 years Age at reproductive maturity<1 year
Generation time3-5 years FecundityInsufficient information
Egg/propagule sizeEggs 160 µm in diameter Fertilization typeExternal
Larval/Juvenile dispersal potential>10km Larval settlement periodInsufficient information
Duration of larval stage2-10 days   
Reproduction Preferences Additional InformationReproduction
Patella vulgata become sexually mature as males aged about nine months. Sex change may occur at one year, commonly at two to three, occasionally later and some limpets never become female. Spawning is believed to be induced by rough seas and onshore winds. Eggs (160 µm in diameter) are broadcast singly and fertilized externally. They are dark green in colour due to the presence of a pigment called chromoprotein Y (Fretter & Graham, 1974). The trochophore larvae has a pelagic life of about 2 weeks and then settles on rocks at a shell length of about 0.2 mm. Newly settled spat are usually found in rock pools or permanently damp situations. Recruitment fluctuates from year to year and from place to place and Bowman (1981) has pointed out that traditional statements about patellid breeding seasons are not universally valid for the British Isles.
Reproductive frequency:
Annual, with peaks within a defined spawning season (October - January) depending on location. Patella vulgata is a winter breeder only in southern England, in the north of Scotland it breeds in August and in north-east England in September.
Reproduction References Hayward et al., 1996, Fish & Fish, 1996, Fretter & Graham, 1994, Fretter & Graham, 1976, Bowman, 1981,
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