Marine snails form a major component of molluscan fauna throughout the world’s oceans. While many are known for their beauty and attractive shapes the lesser endowed are extremely important from an ecological perspective.
The majority of marine snails in Moreton Bay are predators. They feed on worms, barnacles, other molluscs and even sponges. The Moreton Bay Baler is one of Moreton Bay’s largest marine snails and its a carnivore (see below photo). Some like the dog whelks are scavengers. Mud whelks on the other hand feed on the detritus lining the muddy foreshores (QLD Museum, 2013). Moreton Bay Community Seagrass Watch teams often come across whelks in their quadrats .
One of the most common mud whelks found along Moreton Bay is the Hercules Club Mud Whelk (Pyrazus ebeninus, (Bruguiere, 1792) family Batillariidae). It is one of the most common larger marine snails, found from Cairns in Queensland to Tasmania. Often seen in large colonies feeding along the surface of the mudflats on a diet of organic detritus and algae. This marine snail will grow to 100 mm in length (QLD Museum, 2013).
Many aboriginal middens contain these whelks indicating it was an important source of food. Interestingly the Hercules Club Mud Whelk was one of the handful of shells collected by Captain Cook in Botany Bay in April 1770 (Gabriel, 1962)
Its much smaller (50-60 mm) cousin the Australian Mud Whelk (Batillaria australis) is found often with the Hercules Club Mud Whelk. The juvenile stages of both species can often be confused. Both species are intermediate hosts in the life-cycle of parasitic worms that live in sea birds.
Gabriel, M 1962. Marine Molluscs of Victoria.