Gallery of UK Shells



Have you found a shell missing from this list?

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Want to know what the creature who lived in your shell looked like? Have a look at ShellsLive! for photos and clips.

Brown skin on shells aka the periostracum


This brown skin layer we sometimes find on shells is a natural partof the shell itself. It is grown by the creature to protect the shell itself. In some cases it wears off but, when it exists, it can make identifying the shell underneath pretty difficult.

King Scallop
Pecten Maximus

Distinguishable by its large size, non-matching halves (one convex, one flat, differing colours) and symmetry.

See this shell in Shells Live!

Queen Scallop

Aequipecten opercularis 

Smaller than the King Scallop (generally smaller than 9cm across) and the two halves are more similar to each other than the Kings although still non-matching. Generally perfect symmetry in its shape ie.matching ears. 

Variegated Scallops
Chlamys varia


Rarely longer than 6cm, this tends to be smaller than either the Queen or King Scallop and is not as round in shape. It has non-matching ears.

Humpback Scallop
Chlamys distorta


Generally smaller than the variegated scallop, it looks like a melted, distorted verson of it.

Tiger Scallop

Palliolum tigerinum


A small scallop which is very much smoother than any of those above.



l. Common European Turritella aka screw shell aka auger shell
Turritella communis



Common European Wentletraps

Epitonium clathrus 

If shells had skeletons, this is surely what they would look like.

Tusk shells


Common tusk shells
Dentalium vulgare

Grooved, can be found living in ishallow water)

Smooth tusk shells
iDentalium entalis

Deep water (North Sea) only


If mice had tusks,they would be about this size.

Common cockle
Cerastoderma edule


Cockles are made of two identical valves / shells.


See this shell in Shells Live!

Rough cockle
Acanthocardia tuberculata


True cockles have visible grooves ratiating from their 'noses'. In rough cockles, these are particularly deep.

Smooth cockle
aka Norway Cockle
Laevicardium crassum



Prickly cockle
Acanthocardia echinata



Dog cockle aka European bittersweet
Glycymeris glycymeris


Dog cockles are not related to true cockles. The shells are very thick and sturdy, more so than common cockles.


See this shell in Shells Live!

Blue Mussels aka common mussel
Mytilus edulis


Blue mussels can be found in a wide variety of blues, some with visible stripes.


See this shell in Shells Live!

Razor clams

Top: Bean Solen
Pharus Legumen
MIddle: Great Razor Shell
Ensis arcuatus
Bottom: Giant Razor Shell
Ensis siliqua


See this shell in Shells Live!


European spoon clam

Cochlodesma praetenue


A very thin.delicate shell with a hinge shape dlike a spoon

European Painted Top Shell
Calliostoma zizyphinium


With a noticeable cone shape, painted tops are frequently, pink, purple or beige.


See this shell in Shells Live!

 Grooved  Jujubinus
Jujubinus exasperatus




Toothed Top Shell
Calliostoma zizyphinium


Thick shells which frequently have mother-of-pearl showing through under the black pattern. 

Flat top shell
gibbula umbilcalis


A delicate pink or purple pattern which often is worn away showing the mother of pearl beneath.


See this shell in Shells Live!

Grey Top aka grey top shell aka grey top snail
Gibbula cineraria


Generally brown rather than grey.

Baltic tellins
Limecola balthica


Extremely variable - pink, white, striped, plain. Anything is possible.

Thin tellin
Tellina tenuis


A small, delicate pink shell  with darker pink stripes (bands). Each halfi s not quite symmetrical with the 'nose' slightly off-centre.

Rayed Artemis

Dosinia Exoleta


A robust shell,often white or cream.


See this shell in Shells Live!

Common Pelican's Foot
Aporrhais pespelecani



European Piddock
Pholas dactylus


These are unsual clams in that the shell itself is curved up at one end.

Atlantic Slipper Limpets aka AtlanticSlippers

Crepidula fornicata

Put true limpets out of your mind as these look nothing like limpets proper. 


See this shell in Shells Live!

Rayed Mactra

Mactra Stultorum


A type of trough shell which has aparticualrly smooth and shiny shell.


See this shell in Shells Live!

Grooved carpet shell aka Palourde clam
Ruditapes decussatus


A sturdy robust-feeling grooved shell.

Common winkles aka common periwinkles

Littorina littorea


A thick shell in browns and blacks.

Flat periwinkles

Littorina obtusata


A smooth shell with a visible swirl but a flat 'snout'. Often in bright sunny yellow shades or orangey brown.


See this shell in Shells Live!

Rough periwinkle

Littorina saxatilis


This has noticeable grooves running concentrically around the shell and a very pointed 'snout'.

Patella sp.


See this shell in Shells Live!


Limpets are formed of just one conical shell. There are three species of limpet we commonly see in the British Isles but it is not often easy to tell them apart without seeing the limpet snail itself.

This is partly because the shells of the three species are very similar but also because they are often covered in barnacles or seaweeds and also, patterns, colours and ridges get worn away as the animals age.


Common Limpet
Patella vulgata
most commonly seen living  high up n the shore where it is frequently exposed at low tide. If you get to see the body, it is yellowish, often pale. 


Black-footed Limpet

Patella depressa: 
found living lower down the shore and has a black body.

China Limpet

Patella ulyssiponensis:
found living where it is not exposed by low tide often. Has an orangey body.

Chinese hat snail aka Chinaman's hat
Calyptraea chinensis


Like a small limpet, with an often pronounced 'nipple' on top.

Keyhole Limpet
Diodora sp. / Diodora graeca


Distinguished by the very small hole at the top.

Sugar Kelp Emarginula
Emarginula octaviana


A small relative of the key hole limpet

Necklace Shell aka Moon snail
Euspira catena



Dog whelks
Nucella lapillus


Found in a variety of colours, stripes. Characteristised byit very thick shell which protects it from the harshness of rockpool life. 


See this shell in Shells Live!


Netted Dog whelks
Tritia reticulata


Usually browns, beiges and white, with a 'lumpy' reticulated shell. 


See this shell in Shells Live!


Ottter clam
Lutraria lutraria


A very large shell -often found 10-13cm long.

Sting WInkle


A carnivorous sea snail

Striated Venus
Chamelea striatula


The two idenetical halves have visible (and feelable) concentric rings as well as stripes radiating from the shell's 'nose'.

Wide-ribbed Venus
Clausinella fasciata


In comparison with the striated Venus above, the concentric bands are wider and more pronounced.

Pullet Carpet Shell

Venerupis Corrugata


Another member of the large venus family.


See this shell in Shells Live!

Warty Venus

Venus verrucosa 


One of the very large family of venus clams. It has a very rough texture and, as a bi-valve, is made up of two identical halves.

A member of venus family of clams



Manila clams

Venerupis philippinarum / Tapes philippinarum 


Manila Clams, a member of the Venus family, are vaery variable in their patterns as can be seen in the four examples above.

Rayed Artemis

Dosinia exoleta

A thick-set almost circular shell. A member of the venus clams.


See this shell in Shells Live!

Cat's eye shell
Turbo sp.


This is actually the operculum, or trapdoor, used to cover the opening of the turbo sea snail's shell. While the whorl / spiral effect makes it look like a shell, it is solid - flat on one side and stone-like on the other.

Common Atlantic Corbula
Corbula gibba


Faroe Sunset Shell
Gari fervensis


It is identifiable by the sharp 'bend' in its shell on one side of each half with the radiating colours giving it its sunset name..

Chalky Macoma

Macoma Calcera


One of the large tellin family of clams. Made of two idential halves which are generally chalky white in colour..


One of the oyster family
To pinpoint the ID...

Milk-White Ark
Striarca lactea


The underside of the shell is unusually rectangular. Despite its name, it is not always milky-white.

Flat Furrow Clam

Scrobicularia plana 


Thin, quite flat, often a bit yellow.

Flat Oyster aka European Oyster aka Mud Oyster 
Ostrea edulis


Non-matching halves (valves) with one completely flat.


See this shell in Shells Live!

European Oyster


The 'flat' half / valve of a Eusropean Oyster (above)

European Oyster


A colour variant of the European oyster

Pacific Oyster

Crassostera gigas


Generally purple or pink.In the photo above, the central valve is the bottom half of the oyster - flat and white.

Saddle oyster

Anomia ephippium


Very thin delicate,largely circular shell.While one of the two non-matching halves is convex, the other is flat.

Jingle shells

Anomia sp, / anomia simplex


Delicate, largely circular but crinkled shells akin to saddle oysters.The bottom halves are rarely seen washed up on the beach as they remain stuck to the rocks. 

Flat Tellin

Tellina planata

Note the slight ridge on top (in the photo above) edges of the two matching halves.

Arctic Trivis aka Arctic Cowrie aka 

Groatie Buckies


Trivia arctica 


Can be pink,white,beige or even black. Despite its exotic name,itis the most common cowry foundin the UK. Usually about the size of a coffee bean.


See this shell in Shells Live!

European Trivis aka European Cowrie

Trivia monacha 


Distinguishable from the Arctic Cowrie by the three dark marks.

Slender Colus akaSpindleShell

Colus gracilis


A long slim shell, much more slender than the European whelk belowtowhich it is closely related

Common Whelk or European Whelk

Buccinum undatum 


 See this shell in Shells Live!

Pheasant Shell
Phasianella sp


This is a tiny little shell (in the photo above, it is dwarfed by the five pence piece it is stitting on). It has variable pink/red patterning.

Arca Shell
Arca tetragona


An unusually deep bi-valve.

Banded Wedge Shell

Donax vittatus


Made of two identical, very thin,delicate halves. Can be purple or perhaps orange.

Cylindrical Canoe Bubble
Cylichna cylindracae


These look like small tubes with side openings or perhaps a piece of carefully rolled shell.

Shells which may be found on the beach 

but which are not from sea snails


Some shells can be found on the beach which may have come from the dunes or green land around the beach. 


Garden snail 
Helix aspersa


A common snail in our gardens, its very thin shell can be found often on beaches as can live creatures.


Sandhill Snail
Theba pisana

A relatively large snail, abouth e size of a garden snail. A thin,delicate shell.



Brown-lipped snail
Cepaea nemoralis


An incredibily variable snail. Both colours and the presence of stripes can vary, along with the number and width of stripes. However, the dark line at the edge of the opening remains a constant. These are very delicate shells and tend to more likely to be crushed underfoot on the beach, more so than many sea snail shells.

Round-mouthed snail
Pomatius elegans


Unlike the other land snails listed here, the round-mouthed snails has a much thicker more robust shell not unlike that of a rockpool snail.


See this shell in Shells Live!


The Pointed Snail
Cochlicalla acuta


A very small,delicate shell.


Heath Snail

Helicella itala


A very small shell.


Want to know what the snail looked like made and lived in a shell?


Have a look at Shells Live! for photos and videos