Name that Species: Cookia sulcata

This weekend, I headed up the coast to Cape Campbell, where the University of Canterbury Marine Ecology Research Group is running several long-term studies on the communities of the rocky intertidal zone. The next few posts will outline a bit of what we did up on the coast, and share a couple of species I came across.

Cape Campbell is a snail-lover’s dream. So many species of snail, in so many sizes, and shapes, and colors, living in different places around the rocky intertidal, chomping down on everything from seaweeds to other snails…


Amidst all that diversity, this snail stands out, and for one simple reason: it’s huge! Check it out, below, with my hand for scale:


Besides the size, what I really find cool about this snail is the layering of the shell. The top layer is ruffled and pinkish-brown (…puce, I suppose you call it. Terrible word.), and when it wears away, a pearly white underlayer is revealed. On this shell, there’s another white layer on top of the puce ruffles– that’s a crustose algae that took up residence on the snail when it was alive, but has since perished and bleached in the sun.

Anyways, onto the ID: This is a snail of the species Cookia sulcata. The Maori call it ngāruru; the common English name is Cook’s Turban. I don’t think Captain Cook (after whom many bits of the NZ natural world are named, incidentally) regularly sported a turban, but it’s fun to imagine him taking off on Pacific explorations with a giant snail on his head.

Until next time,


3 thoughts on “Name that Species: Cookia sulcata

    1. James Cook was the first European to alight on and map New Zealand, in 1769– he wasn’t actually the first European to see the islands (that was Dutchman Abel Tasman, in 1642, but he had a bad encounter with the Maori and left before even setting foot on land), but he’s known as the one who discovered it and set British colonization of the islands in motion.


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