An initiative of Earthwatch Institute

  1. Img_0006_c_gillies Purple shell of Violet Snail by C Gillies
  2. Img_0009__cgillies Opening with no operculum by C Gillies

Violet Snail

Janthina janthina


  • Violet snails are medium marine snails (molluscs) that float around in the open ocean
  • They have a purple shell that lightens in colour as it you move towards the flattened top of the shell. The shell itself is very light weight and they have no operculum (lid). Their flesh is a dark purple or sometime black.
  • Size:  up to 30mm

What to Observe

Search area for 30 minutes and record under the following categories:

  • Abundant - found easily with little searching
  • Frequent - found with minimal searching
  • Rare - only 1 or 2 individuals found with intensive searching
  • Not found - not present during search

ClimateWatch Science Advisor

Violet snails are under increasing stress due to ocean acidification which can weaken their calcium carbonate shells and reduce body condition. This makes them more prone to disease, predation and low reproduction. Increasing water temperature as a result of climate change will likely affect their abundance.

When To Look

Throughout the year.

Where To Look

  • They are open ocean dwellers and are found washed up on beaches often found in the drift line.
  • Australian mainland coast line and Eastern TAS.
 Violet Snail distribution map - GBIF

Violet Snail distribution map - GBIF



Edger, GJ. (2008). Australian Marine Life. The Plants and Animals of Temperate Waters [2nd Ed]. New Holland Publishers Australia Pty Ltd.


  1. Search Species

  1. What Else?

    Violet snail are unique and are unlikely to be confused with any other shell, due to their size, purple colour and thin shell. 

  1. Did You Know?

    The violet snails main food sources are: blue-bottles, by-the-wind sailors and small jellyfish.

    They float around the open oceans upside down, attached to a raft of mucus bubbles that they make.