1 minute read

Tusk Shells: Scaphopoda

Tusk Shell (antalis Entalis): Species Account

Physical characteristics: The shell is smooth and white and sometimes has faint, lengthwise ribs toward the narrow rear.

Geographic range: Tusk shells live in the northeastern Atlantic, from Ireland to the Canary Islands; another population lives in the northwestern Atlantic, from Nova Scotia to Cape Cod.

Habitat: They burrow in soft ocean bottoms at depths down to about 6,600 feet (2,000 meters).

Diet: Tusk shells eat all kinds of microscopic organisms, but prefer foraminiferans.

Behavior and reproduction: They burrow into soft ocean bottoms, leaving only the tips of their shells exposed. Males and females are required for reproduction. Both eggs and sperm are released into the water, where fertilization and development take place.

Tusk shells were used as money by Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest and circulated throughout western Canada south to California. Tusk shells were also worn as displays of wealth. Today they are sold to shell collectors and made into jewelry. (Illustration by Dan Erickson. Reproduced by permission.)

Tusk shells and people: This species is not known to impact people or their activities.

Conservation status: Tusk shells are not considered threatened or endangered. ∎



Brusca, Richard C., and Gary J. Brusca. Invertebrates. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates, 2003.


Reynolds, P. D. "The Scaphopoda." Advances in Marine Biology (2002): 137-236.

Web sites:

"Class Scaphopoda (tusk shells)." http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Scaphopoda.html (accessed on April 27, 2005).

"Introduction to the Scaphopoda." http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/mollusca/scaphs/scaphopoda.html (accessed on April 27, 2005).

"Preface to the Class Scaphopoda." http://www.fish.washington.edu/naturemapping/mollusks/scap/8scap_int.html (accessed on April 27, 2005).

The Scaphopod Page. http://academics.hamilton.edu/biology/preynold/Scaphopoda/ (accessed on April 27, 2005).

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMollusks, Crustaceans, and Related SpeciesTusk Shells: Scaphopoda - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Tusk Shells And People, Tusk Shell (antalis Entalis): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, CONSERVATION STATUS