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Lettered olive

lettere d olive shell, lettere d olive seashell
Oliva litterata Lamarck, 1811
Strephona litterata Lamarck, 1811
Oliva citrina C W Johnson, 1911
Oliva maya Petuch & Sargent, 1986
Oliva contoyensis Petuch, 1988

The lettered olive, Oliva sayana, is a species of large predatory sea snail, a marine gastropod mollusc in the family Olividae, the olive shells, olive snails, or olives


  • 1 Subspecies
  • 2 Distribution
  • 3 Habitat
  • 4 Shell description
  • 5 Life habits
  • 6 Human use
  • 7 References


Oliva sayana contains the following subspecies:2

  • Oliva sayana sarasotensis Petuch & Sargent, 1986
  • Oliva sayana sayana Ravenel, 1834
  • Oliva sayana texana Petuch & Sargent, 1986


The species' range is from North Carolina to Florida and the Gulf states of North America, including Louisiana and Texas; It also occurs in Mexico, including Campeche State, Yucatán State and Quintana Roo, and in Surya lanka, AP, India 1 and may also occur in Brazilcitation needed


The lettered olive typically lives in near-shore waters, on shallow sand flats near inlets The empty shell is occasionally, or sometimes commonly, washed up onto ocean beachescitation needed

Fossil specimen of Oliva sayana from the Pliocene Shells of Oliva sayana Shells of Oliva sayana

Shell descriptionedit

The shell of this species can be about 6 cm 2 1⁄4 in long maximum reported size reaches 91 cm1 It is a smooth, shiny, cylindrical-shaped shell with a short spire The aperture is narrow and extending almost the length of shell, continuing around the bottom and ending in a notch on the other side The suture is V-cut and deep The lower part of the whorl is just above where the suture extends outward and then at a sharp shoulder drops into the suture

The shell coloration can vary from cream to a greyish exterior with reddish-brown zigzag markings The common name of this species is derived from the darker surface markings that sometimes resemble letters

Life habitsedit

This olive, like all olives, is a carnivore: it captures bivalves and small crustaceans with its foot and takes them below the sand surface to digestcitation needed

Its presence is sometimes detected at very low tides by the trails it leaves when it crawls below the surface on semi-exposed sand flatscitation needed

Females lay floating, round egg capsules that are often found in beach drift Young are free swimmingcitation needed

Human useedit

Colonists and early Native Americans made jewelry from these shellscitation needed

The lettered olive is the state shell of South Carolina


  1. ^ a b c Malacolog 411: Western Atlantic Mollusk Species Database Retrieved April 2010
  2. ^ Oliva sayana Ravenel, 1834  Retrieved through: World Register of Marine Species on 26 April 2010
  • Lettered Olive
  • NC Sea Grant

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Lettered olive Information about

Lettered olive

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