Corallivorous snails Maldives
Corallivorous snails Maldives
Peristernia snails Maldives

Are Marine Snails Harmful to Corals?

Our Reefscapers teams remove any corallivorous snails encountered during our regular reef restoration and coral maintenance work. (Big thanks to Elisha Whiting, Coral Biologist at Kuda Huraa, for the graphics & write-up).

This will become increasingly important during the upcoming months, as coral predators are known to strike when the corals are at their most vulnerable, such as during and following a coral bleaching event.

Many marine gastropods play an important role in the coral reef ecosystem, so we have been working to identify which corallivorous species are found on our reefs, to increase knowledge and understanding of the threats to our corals.

Some marine gastropods such as Drupella are known to eat corals, and prefer genera of both Acropora and Pocillopora. This is a particular issue for our Reefscapers teams, as these 2 coral species are favoured for coral propagation projects, being both easy to handle and giving excellent rates of growth.

Predation of the coral colonies leaves them vulnerable to disease and competition, or if left unchecked can result in total mortality of whole colonies and even large sections of reef. To increase the success of restoration projects, it is common for coral biologists to remove these snails and manage populations, to increase survivorship of the vulnerable corals.

Peristernia nasatula = Friend

Commonly mistaken for: Coralliophila costularis (below) as it also has a purple aperture and red operculum. There is no published literature that identifies this species as corallivorous. Although they can be found around Drupella, they do not leave behind feeding scars

Coralliophila costularis
(formerly: Coralliophila retusa)

  • Prey Preferences: Acropora (also found around Montipora digitata)
  • Location: on the substrate around the base of Acropora colonies (particularly branching species)
  • Key features: distinctive wavy edge on the outer lip, dark purple aperture, and red operculum

Coralliophila costularis

Coralliophila erosa
(formerly: Coralliophila abbreviate)

  • Prey Preferences: Acropora
  • Location: around the base of Acropora colonies (particularly branching and digitate species). Very well camouflaged
  • Key Features: distinctive diamond shape, white/ light purple aperture, and yellow operculum

Coralliophila erosa

Coralliophila monodonta
(sessile species of Coralliophila)

  • Prey Preferences: Pocillopora
  • Location: on branches of Pocillopora colonies
  • Key Features: rounded shape, variety of aperture and operculum colours (pink-purple). Well-camouflaged inside the colony and covered in algae

Coralliophila monodonta

Coralliophila violacea
(sessile species of Coralliophila)

  • Prey Preferences: Massive Porites
  • Location: in the crevices of massive Porites boulders
  • Key Features: rounded shape, purple aperture, and dark operculum

Coralliophila violacea

Drupella corallivorous snail Maldives