Buccinum undatum


The Common Whelk lives on sandy, gravelly and muddy coasts, below the low tide mark. It is the largest, snail-like shell you are likely to find on our beaches. It lays its eggs in a spongy mass, which are often found washed up on shore.

How to identify

Whelks are more pointed than periwinkles. The Common Whelk is much larger than the Dog Whelk, not as coarsely ribbed as the Netted Whelk and more rounded than the Oyster Drill. It has a yellowish-brown shell.

Where to find it

Found all around our coasts.


When to find it

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December

How can people help

In the 1970s and 80s, whelks and other gastropod populations were seriously affected by the use of chemical anti-fouling paints on boat hulls containing tributyl-tin (TBTs). These paints caused females to become male, leading to a decline in reproduction. The use of TBTs is now controlled, but chemical pollution can still be an issue for our marine animals, particularly as it builds up through the food chain. The Wildlife Trusts are working with fishermen, researchers, politicians and local people towards a vision of 'Living Seas', where marine wildlife thrives. This work has recently had a massive boost with the passing of the Marine Bill, promising sustainable development of the UK's marine environment. Do your bit for our Living Seas by supporting your local Wildlife Trust.

Species information

Common name
Latin name
Buccinum undatum
Aquatic gastropods (e.g. sea snails)
Length: 6.5cm Average Lifespan: up to 10 years
Conservation status