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Roger R. Seapy
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taxon links [up-->]Atlanta fusca [up-->]Atlanta californiensis [down<--]Atlantidae Interpreting the tree
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Containing group: Atlantidae


Atlanta is the type genus of the Atlantidae, containing 20 of the 22 species in the family (the other two genera, Protatlanta and Oxygyrus, are monospecific). The shell and keel are calcareous (composed of aragonite). The larval shell is retained following metamorphosis, becoming the spire in the adult shell. All species but one, A. californiensis from the temperate North Pacific, are found in tropical to subtropical waters. Most (12) are cosmopolitan in geographic distribution, although three are Indo-Pacific, two are found only in the Indian Ocean, two only in the Atlantic Ocean, and one in the Pacific Ocean.

Brief Diagnosis

An atlantid with:


  1. Eye morphology of three types (a, b and c; see Atlantidae page)
  2. Operculum morphology of three types (a, b, c; see Atlantidae page)
  3. Radular morphology of two types (I and II; see Pterotracheoidea page)
  4. Shell
    1. The shell of Atlanta consists of three sequentially-deposited portions; a dome-shaped embryonic shell (protoconch I; shaded yellow in image on left below), a larval shell (protoconch II; shaded blue in image on left below) and the adult shell (teleoconch; unshaded in image on right below)
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      Click on an image to view larger version & data in a new window
      Click on an image to view larger version & data in a new window

      Figure. Scanning electron micrographs of larval and adult shells in Atlanta plana. Left: larval shell, consisting of the embryonic shell (protoconch I; shaded yellow) and the larval shell (protoconch II; shaded blue). Scale bar = 0.1 mm. Right: adult shell  (protoconch shaded blue to distinguish it from the teleoconch. Scale bar = 0.5 mm. © 2005

    2. Spire whorl number. The number of whorls comprising the spire of the adult shell (the protoconch) is constant, while the number of whorls in the teleoconch increases with shell growth (see above right). The size of the teleoconch whorls (reflected in the width of the whorls when the shell is viewed from the right side) increases rapidly with growth. Thus, the approximate location on the shell where the narrow whorls of the protoconch end and the rapidly increasing width of the teleoconch whorls begin is easily determined under a dissection microscope. The whorl number ranges from two and one-half (Atlanta lesueuri and A. oligogyra) to six (A. gibbosa) (see table below)
    3. Spire shape and ornamentation.  Spire shape is highly variable and can often serve as a distinctive species characterisitic. Examples include the tall, turreted spire of A. turriculata, the tilted (or "inclined") spire in the A. inclinata and A. gibbosa species groups, and the large, low rounded and elevated spire of A. inflata and A. helicinoides.  Similarly, spire ornamentation can be very distinctive, ranging from smooth (e.g., the A. lesueuri species group and three of the members of the A. peroni species group) to ornamented by low, elevated spiral ridges (e.g., A. inflata, A. helicinoides, and A. plana) and highly ornate elevated sculpture (e.g., A. fusca, A. echinogyra and A. turriculata).

  5. Nineteen of the 20 species of Atlanta are combined into seven species groups (after Richter and Seapy, 1999), each of which is characterized by similarities in overall shell and shell spire morphologies. The species in each group share the same radular type, usually the same opercular type, and in many cases the same eye type. The table below summarizes this information
  6. Species group Group characteristics Species* Species characteristics Shell diameter (except keel) Number of spire whorls Eye type Opercular type Radular type
    A. fusca group Shell small with tall, rounded keel; spire strongly elevated and sculptured, with complex ornamentation and a prominent spiral ridge; color darkens with age. A. fusca Spire tall conical; color yellowish-brown to dark brown; circumglobal <2 mm 4 a a
    A. turriculata Spire tall  turreted; color yellowish- to reddish-brown  grading into clear outer shell whorl; Indo-Pacific. <2 mm 4-1/4 a a
    A. inflata group Shell either inflated (width ca. 40% of shell diameter) or flat; spire large (relative to shell size) and low with shallow sutures or small and low; spire surface smooth to sculptured (with evenly-spaced spiral ridges). A. inflata Shell inflated; body whorl flat-oval in cross section; keel high, truncate; spire with large with low spiral ridges, varible in expression; colorless to faintly yellowish or reddish-brown; circumglobal. <1.5 mm 4-1/2 a c
    A. helicinoides Shell inflated: body whorl nearly circular in cross section; keel of low to moderate height, rounded; spire large with prominent spiral ridges, variable in expression; yellow or purple-violet; circumglobal. <2 mm 4-1/2 c c
    A. californiensis Shell flattened; keel of moderate height, truncate, and with red-brown base; spire small (relative to shell size), low conical to globular, and smooth; colorless to uniformly or mottled, light yellow, brown or violet; North Pacific Ocean. <3.5 mm 3-1/4 a c
    A. lesueuri group Shell spire extremely small; after metamorphosis a rapidly-expanding, single whorl (teleoconch) is formed (the adult shell consists of only 3-1/2 whorls). A. lesueuri Shell entirely transparent; spire low and conical with prominent (deep) sutures; keel high, truncate; circumglobal. <6 mm 2-1/2 b b
    A. oligogyra Shell faint pink to yellow; spire low and rounded with shallow sutures: keel of moderate height, rounded; circumglobal. <3 mm 2-1/2 a b
    A. peroni group Shell flat, of moderate to large size; spire small. A. peroni Spire low, rounded; keel of moderate height, truncate; shell colorless, becoming faintly yellow in large specimens; circumglobal. <10 mm 3-1/2 b b
    A. fragilis Shell fragile (thin-walled), transparent and completely colorless; keel high; Atlantic Ocean. <9 mm 3-1/2 b II
    A. rosea Spire nearly globular; spire whorls difficult to distinguish due to extremely shallow sutures of first two and one-half whorls; color faintly yellow; species name based on bright pink larval shell; circumglobal. <5 mm 3-1/2 b b
    A. frontieri Spire low, with first and second whorls elevated, forming a low cone; distinctive thin, elevated spiral ridge along outer margin of spire whorls; keel of moderate height, rounded; colorless; Indian Ocean. <5.5 mm 4-1/2 b b
    A. gaudichaudi group Shell flat; shell spire small, with low conical shape.
    A. gaudichaudi Spire smooth; keel of moderate height, truncate and with a brown base; shell colorless; circumglobal. <3 mm 3-1/4 b b
    A. plana Spire low conical with weak, spiral ridges; spire sutures violet; keel moderately low and rounded, with a brown base; Indo-Pacific. <3.5 mm 3-1/2 a b
    A. selvagensis Spire very low conical, whorls with to without weak spiral ridges; spire sutures well defined, pink to light violet; keel base brown; eastern North Atlantic <1.5 mm 3-3/4
    A. echinogyra Spire low conical, slightly tilted relative to shell plane, with  prominent spiral ridges and secondary sculpture; spire reddish-brown and teleoconch colorless; Indo-Pacific. <2.5 mm 3-3/4 a c
    A.inclinata group Shell spire large, globose (bee-hive shaped), strongly inclined relative to shell plane, with shallow sutures and numerous small tuberculae on the surface; keel moderately high and rounded; internal shell wall of radially-arranged lines. A. inclinata Spire with small tuberculae scattered on surface; spire weak rose color and last shell whorl colorless; circumglobal. <7 mm 4-1/2 b c
    A. tokiokai Spire with spirally-arranged rows of low tuberculae; colorless to light yellow; circumglobal. <3 mm 5-1/2 b c
    A. gibbosa group Shell spire large and high; internal shell wall without radially-arranged lines; shell completely transparent and colorless. A. gibbosa Spire moderately inclined relative to shell plane, with a broad base and pointed apex; circumglobal? (presence in Atlantic Ocean uncertain). <4 mm 6 b b
    A. meteori Spire strongly inclined relative to shell plane, conical and steep sided; keel high, truncate; circumglobal. <4 mm 5-3/4 b b

    *One species, Atlanta peresi, is excluded from the table. It was described by Frontier (1966) from the western Indian Ocean. Although its adult shell morphology and opercular type were characterized by Frontier, its eye and radular morphologies are unknown. Subsequent studies of the atlantid heteropods from the Indian Ocean by Richter (1974) and Seapy et al. (2003) did not record A. peresi, and the species' validity remains in question. The interested reader is referred to Richter and Seapy (1999) for a further description and discussion.


Frontier, S. 1966. Notes morphologiques sur les Atlanta récoltées dans le plancton de Nosy Bé (Madagascar). Cah. ORSTOM, Sér. Océanogr. 4: 131-139.

Richter, G. 1961. Die Radula der Atlantiden (Heteropoda, Prosobranchia) und ihre Bedeutung für die Systematik und Evolution der Famiie. Morphol. Ökol. Tiere 50: 163-238.

Richter, G. 1974. Die Heteropoden der "Meteor"-Expedition in den Indischen Ozean, 1964/65. "Meteor" Forsch.-Ergebnisse 17(D): 55-78.

Richter, G. and R. R. Seapy. 1999. Heteropoda, pp. 621-647. In: D. Boltovskoy (ed.), South Atlantic Zooplankton. Leiden: Backhuys Publ.

Seapy, R. R. 1990. The pelagic family Atlantidae (Gastropoda: Heteropoda) from Hawaiian waters: a taxonomic survey. Malacologia 32: 107-130.

Seapy, R. R., C. M. Lalli and F. E. Wells. 2003. Heteropoda from western Australian waters, pp. 513-546. In: F. E. Wells, D. I. Walker and D. S. Jones (eds.), The marine flora and fauna of Dampier, Western Australia. Perth: Western Australia Museum.

Title Illustrations
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Scientific Name Atlanta peroni
Location Hawaiian waters
Specimen Condition Live Specimen
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About This Page

California State University, Fullerton, California, USA

Correspondence regarding this page should be directed to Roger R. Seapy at

Page: Tree of Life Atlanta. Authored by Roger R. Seapy. The TEXT of this page is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution License - Version 3.0. Note that images and other media featured on this page are each governed by their own license, and they may or may not be available for reuse. Click on an image or a media link to access the media data window, which provides the relevant licensing information. For the general terms and conditions of ToL material reuse and redistribution, please see the Tree of Life Copyright Policies.

Citing this page:

Seapy, Roger R. . 2008. Atlanta. Version 29 December 2008 (under construction). http://tolweb.org/Atlanta/28752/2008.12.29 in The Tree of Life Web Project, http://tolweb.org/

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