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The interesting life of the bubble raft snail

Learn more about this purple snail that relies on a raft of mucus bubbles to stay alive!

This floating snail is found all around the coast of Australia, including our Sunshine Coast shores, and throughout the tropical and subtropical areas of all the worlds oceans. 

It's called the violet sea snail (Janthina janthina) and is often found along the tide-line after storms and onshore winds.

The life of the violet sea snail

It spends its whole life drifting on the ocean surface in warm seas at the mercy of the winds. 

It's head has a long cylindrical snout, with no eyes -making it blind - and its flesh is a deep violet or black colour. 

The paper-thin violet to purple coloured shell gives it it's name.

The violet sea snail inhabits the ocean surface by secreting a raft of mucus bubbles to keep it afloat. They make the bubbles by agitating the water with their foot, this creates bubbles which they hold together with mucus. If the raft ever breaks apart, the snail will sink into the ocean and die. 

This gastropod mollusc can grow up to 4cm but is usually found on our shores at 1 to 2cm wide. 

It feeds on floating cnidarians such as Blue Bottles (Physalia physalis) and By-the-wind Sailors (Velella velella).

Violet snails are 'protandric hermaphrodites', meaning that they are born male and develop into females over time. There is no direct mating, the male releases sperm into a case that drifts to a female, where sperm fertilises the egg. The snails brood their young and release them directly into the sea where they are immediately able to build their own rafts.

Love where we live and co-exist with nature in our wildlife friendly biosphere with these tips:

  • stay on the designated walkway and out of the dunes and bush
  • keep your dogs on a lead and pick up after them
  • bin your rubbish to keep our Sunshine Coast clean and litter free.
 

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Sunshine Coast Council acknowledges the Sunshine Coast Country, home of the Kabi Kabi peoples and the Jinibara peoples, the Traditional Custodians, whose lands and waters we all now share. We wish to pay respect to their Elders – past, present and emerging, and acknowledge the important role First Nations people continue to play within the Sunshine Coast community.

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