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Scientific classification

The superfamily Bulloidea (Lamarck, 1801) consists of herbivorous marine snails belonging to the headshield slugs of the suborder Cephalaspidea and the order Opisthobranchia. There is only one family, Bullidae.

They have large, ovate external shells that offer enough cover to accommodate the whole snail when retracting. All species have rather similar shaped shells. The shells have a deep, narrow umbilicus at the apex. There is no operculum. They have a soft radula.

The gizzard is rather different from other herbivorous groups. It has three large corneous crushing plates and ancillary corneous spines, instead of just grinding plates. The crawling snails show prominent, frilled or lobed parapodia.

The snails are nocturnal and can be found on shallow, sandy coasts grazing among sea grasses, feeding primarily on green algae, burying themselves in mud when the tide is out. Because of their nocturnal habits, they are hard to find. The nudibranch Navannax inermis is a known predator of sea slugs and especially Bulla gouldiana.

Fuller treatment at Cephalaspidea.

The family of the Bubble Shells (Bullidae) (Lamarck, 1801)

There is one genus : Bulla.

The smooth shell is ovate and expanded, with a deep, sunken involute top. Since there is little difference between the shells and in the morphology of the radular teeth, there is some uncertainty about the exact taxonomy of the species in Bulla.

This family seems to have evolved separately in an early stage of the evolutionary history of the opisthobranchs.

Bulla, Haminoea and Smaragdinella form the well-defined monophyletic group (Bulloidea) according to the 1996 phylogenetic analysis of Paula M. Mikkelsen (Malacologia, 37(2): 375-442). But, according to Dr. Bill Rudman and others, differences in the alimentary canal and reproductive system, still put Haminoea and Smaragdinella into the separate superfamily Haminoeidea.


  • Bulla abyssicola Dall, 1881 (junior synonym of Bulla pinguicula)
  • Bulla adansoni R. A. Philippi, 1847
    • Distribution : West Africa, Gabon, Cape Verde
    • Length : 15 mm
  • Bulla ampulla Linnaeus, 1758 Pacific Bulla, Ampulle Bulla
    • Distribution : on sandy sublittoral bottoms of warmer seas, tropical Indo-Pacific, Sri Lanka, Philippines
    • Length : 60 mm (largest shell of the Cephalaspidea)
    • Description : This is the common Bulla in tropical Indo-Pacific; globose, inflated, moderately solid body whorl. The white aperture is as long as the rest of the shell.The rounded outer lip is extended posteriorly beyond the apex. Columella in a reversed ‘S’-shape, smooth and thinly callous. Cream-colored with blotches of dark, purple-brown.
  • Bulla amygdala Dillwyn, 1817 (possibly a variant of Bulla striata)
    • Distribution : Canaries, East Atlantic, Mediterranean, Florida, Brazil
    • Length : 40 mm
  • Bulla angasi H. A. Pilsbry, 1893 (most probably a color variant of Bulla ampulla)
    • Distribution : Australia
    • Length : 25 mm
    • Description : smooth, sturdy, cylindrical shell; color : dark brown
  • Bulla bermudae Verrill and Bush, 1900
    • Distribution : Bermudas
    • Length : 3 mm
  • Bulla biplicata A. Adams, 1850 (synonym of Acteocina bidentata (d'Orbigny, 1841))
    • Distribution : Japan, New Yersey, North Carolina, Florida, Caribbean, Brazil, Uruguay
    • Length : 4 mm
  • Bulla botanica Ch. Hedley, 1918 (maybe synonym of Bulla quoyi) Australian True Bubble, Common True Bubble
    • Distribution : Australia
    • Length : 32-55 mm
  • Bulla clausa Dall, 1889 Imperforate Bubble
    • Distribution : Florida
    • Length : 12 mm
  • Bulla cruentata A. Adams, 1850 Shiny Bubble
    • Distribution : Indian Ocean
  • Bulla difficilis T. Habe, 1950
    • Distribution ; Japan
  • Bulla eburnea Dall, 1881
    • Distribution : America, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida
    • Length : 7 mm
    • Description : found at depths up to 620 m
  • Bulla gemma A. E. Verrill, 1880 Jewel Bubble
    • Distribution : New York
    • Length : 4.2 mm
  • Bulla gouldiana Pilsbry, 1895 California Bubble, Gould’s Bubble, Cloudy Bubble
    • Distribution : Northwest America, California to Ecuador
    • Length : 30-64 mm
    • Description: semi-transparent head, mantle and foot are yellowish-brown with mottled pale-bluish dots; reddish to brown involute (= sunken) apex; the aperture is wide anteriorly, narrow posteriorly; their egg mass is yellow to orange tangled string of jelly, containing oval capsules. Each one contains up to 25 eggs, which develop into veliger larvae.
  • Bulla indolens Dall, 1927
    • Distribution : Georgia
    • Length : 7.5 mm
    • Description : found at depths up to 800 m
  • Bulla japonica T. Habe, 1976
    • Distribution : Japan
  • Bulla krebsii Dall, 1889
    • Distribution : Guadeloupe
    • Length : 8 mm
    • Description : found at depths up to 1400m
  • Bulla mabillei E. A. A. Locard, 1896 (synonym of Bulla amygdala) Mabille’s Bubble
    • Distribution : Turkey, Canaries, Madeira, Cape Verde, West Africa
    • Length : 33-52 mm
    • Description : larger than the other European species; difficult to obtain; color : yellowish-brown with dark bluish dots
  • Bulla morgana Dall, 1908
    • Distribution : West America
  • Bulla nebulosa J. Schroeter, 1804 (synonym of Bulla striata)
    • Distribution : Atlantic
  • Bulla occidentalis A. Adams, 1850 (synonym of Bulla striata) Common West Indian Bubble
    • Distribution : Brazil, North Carolina to Florida, Bahamas, Caribbean.
    • Length : 25 mm
    • Description : thin, rotund, oval shell with a smooth, glazed surface; pale color with brown spots; involute (= sunken) apex; large body whorl; long aperture, wide anteriorly; white columella.
  • Bulla orientalis T. Habe, 1941
    • Distribution : Indo Pacific
    • Description : brown punctuate marks on the shell
  • Bulla pinguicula Seguenza, 1879
    • Distribution : Mediterranean, Florida, Caribbean, Azores, Mexico
    • Length : 12.8 mm
    • Description : found at depths up to 1170 m
  • Bulla punctulata A. Adams In Sowerby, 1850
    • Distribution : Pacific, Califronia, Mexico, Peru
    • Length : 30 mm
    • Description : the shell looks like the one of Bulla ampula, but is smaller and more cylindrical. Its color is cream, with clouding of brown or gray in two to four spiral bands, generally spotted with squarish chocolate dots, bordered to the right by white spots.
  • Bulla quoyii Gray in Dieffenbach, 1843
    • Distribution : Indo Pacific, Australia, New Zealand
    • Length : 44 mm-60mm
    • Description :The calcified shell has a gray-brown color, with blotches of various shades of brown; the snail has a bright honey-golden color. The hind extremities of the headshield have evolved into tentacles, directing the water over Hancock’s organ. The egg-mass is a jelly-like sphere, with the eggs in a spiral string. After the breeding period, there occurs a mass mortality of the animals, just like the sea hares.
  • Bulla rufolabris A. Adams in Sowerby, 1850
    • Distribution : West America, Galapagos
    • Length : 10-15 mm
  • Bulla solida Gmelin, 1791 Solid Bubble
    • Distribution : Mexico, Flroida, Texas, Cuba, Colombia.
    • Length : 30-52 mm
    • Description : found at depths up to 25 m
  • Bulla striata Bruguière, 1792 Common Atlantic Bubble, Striate Bubble
    • Distribution : Mediterranean, Morocco, Canaries, Azores, Atlantic Ocean, Florida
    • Length : 12-30 mm
    • Description : The shell is thin, delicate and rather narrow. The body whorl is oval and convex. The smooth elongated aperture narrows posteriorly, but is wide anteriorly. The columellar callus is rather small; The thin outer lip is incurved and extends a little beyond the apex; The color is brown-gray, with darker, smudged dots and dashes, spread unevenly over the surface. The surface is smooth, with some spiral grooves at the posterior end ans at the apical umbilicus. There is no operculum. The foot is well developed. There are no parapodia (fleshy winglike outgrowths). The broadened head has no tentacles. The gills and the osphradium are inside the mantle cavity. The radula has three laterals on each side of the central tooth.
  • Bulla umbilicata Röding, 1798 (synonym of Bulla striata)
    • Distribution : Caribbean
    • Length : 17 mm
  • Bulla vernicosa A. A. Gould, 1859 (most probably a color variant of Bulla ampulla)
    • Distribution : Indo Pacific, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Taiwan, Tonga
    • Length : 27-50 mm
    • Description : white-colored shell with lightbrown spots

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