Common Limpet


Limpets ©Richard Burkmar

Common Limpet

Scientific name: Patella vulgata
If you’ve ever been rockpooling, you’ve probably seen a limpet or two! Their cone-shaped shells clamp onto rocks until the tide comes in, at which point they become active. Limpets move around eating algae using their tough tongue.

Species information


Length: 4cm Lifespan: 10-20 years

Conservation status


When to see

January to December


Common limpets are the small cone-like shells that are often seen firmly clamped to the side of rocks in rockpools. Although they may not look impressive at first glance, once the tide comes in they spring to action, moving around rocks eating algae using their tough tongue. Their tongue is the world’s strongest known biological structure – it needs to constantly scrape algae off of tough rocks!

REMEMBER: Do not attempt to remove a limpet stuck onto a rock, you may damage the muscles used to keep them there!

How to identify

There are three very similar species of limpet found on UK shores. The common limpet has a greyish, conical shell and is slightly larger than the other two. The Black-Footed Limpet has a smaller flatter shell and is mainly found around the south of the country. The China limpet has an orange patch on the inside of its shell. If you are recording your sightings as part of a recording scheme, the limpet should be recorded as ‘Patella spp‘ as it is very hard to positively identify this species without removing them from the rocks. And make sure to include clear photographs to help verifiers confirm your sighting!


Found on rocky shores all around UK coasts.

Did you know?

Limpets move around over the rocks when the tide is in, but always return to their own favourite spot when the tide goes out, following the mucus trail that they have deposited. This spot becomes worn by the edges of the shell, and eventually an obvious 'scar' in the rock is created. This 'home scar' helps the limpet to better attach to the rock, stopping it drying out until the next tide comes in.

How people can help

When rockpooling, be careful to leave everything as you found it - replace any rocks you turn over, put back any crabs or fish and ensure not to scrape anything off its rocky home.