Animals -> Marine Invertebrates -> Sea Snails -> Limpets


Limpets were gathered and eaten by northwest coast cultures including the Makah, Coast Salish, Nootka (Nuu-chah-nulth), Southern Kwakiutl (Kwakwaka'wakw), Nuxalk, Tlingit and Aleut [1-10]. Although concentration of limpets differed along the shore, they were available throughout the year and were a reliable resource [3, 5-7, 10, 11]. They were found in abundance on most beaches attached to rocks in the intertidal zone [1, 3, 10, 12]. Women detached them with a prying stick [4, 8, 10]. Limpets were usually eaten raw by scooping the meat from the shell; they were also boiled and steamed [1, 13].

The Manhousat are reported to have gathered plate limpets and shield limpets [13].


1.         Arima EY: The West Coast People: The Nootka of Vancouver Island and Cape Flattery, vol. Special Publication No. 6. Victoria, B.C.: British Columbia Provincial Musem; 1983.

2.         Arima E, Dewhirst J: Nootkans of Vancouver Island. In: Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 7: Northwest Coast. edn. Edited by Suttles W. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution; 1990: 391-397.

3.         Batdorf C: Northwest Native Harvest. Surrey, B.C: Hancock House Publishers Ltd.; 1990.

4.         Drucker P: The Northern and Central Nootkan tribes. Washington,D.C.: Government Printing Office; 1951.

5.         Drucker P: Indians of the Northwest Coast. New York: The natural History Press; 1955.

6.         Kirk R: Daily Life. In: Wisdom of the Elders: Native Traditions on the Northwest Coast- The Nuu-chah-nulth, Southern Kwakiutl and Nuxalk. edn. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre in association with The British Columbia Provincial Museum; 1986: 105-138.

7.         McCartney AP: Prehistory of the Aleutian Region. In: Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 5: Arctic. edn. Edited by Damas D. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution; 1984: 119-135.

8.         Moss ML: Shellfish, Gender, and Status on the Northwest Coast: Reconciling Archeological, Ethnographic, and Ethnohistorical Records of the Tlingit. American Anthropologist 1993, 95(3):631-652.

9.         Olsen SL: Animals in American Indian Life: An Overview. In: Stars Above, Earth Below American Indians and Nature. edn. Edited by Bol MC. Dublin: Roberts Rinehart Publishers; 1998: 95-118.

10.       Renker AM, Gunther E: Makah. In: Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 7: Northwest Coast. edn. Edited by Suttles W. Washington, DC: Smithsinian Institution; 1990: 422-426.

11.       Jewitt JR: Captive of The Nootka Indians: The Northwest Coast Adventure of John R. Jewitt, 1802-1806. Boston: Back Bay Books; Distributed by Northeastern University Press; 1993.

12.       Port Simpson Curriculum Committee: Port Simpson Foods: A Curriculum Development Project. In. Prince Rupert: The People of Port Simpson and School District No. 52; 1983.

13.       Ellis DW, Swan L: Teachings of The Tides: Uses of Marine Invertebrates By The Manhousat People, vol. 1st edition. Nanaimo, B.C.: Theytus Books Ltd.; 1981.

Limpets are divided into a few different families of sea snails, with around 500 species divided into many genera. In North America, limpets include the plate limpet (Notoacmea scutum) and the shield limpet (Lottia pelta), both found along the Pacific coast. In limpets, the shell is more conical than spirally coiled. They most often are slowing creeping along the substrate and feed mostly on encrusted algal slim.


Howes GJ, Chatfield JE: "Mollusks". In: The Encyclopedia of Underwater Life. Edited by Dawes ACJ: Oxford University Press; 2007.


Images provided below were obtained from: Encyclopedia of Life. Available from
Plate limpet
© Donna Pomeroy, licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial License license:
This map is based on occurrence records available through the GBIF network
Shield limpet
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© Rosario Beach Marine Laboratory
Supplier: Invertebrates of the Salish Sea
This map is based on occurrence records available through the GBIF network