Cabrillo Marine Aquarium


Haliotis sp.


Fun Facts

    Young abalone with a shell size of less than 3 cm take shelter within the spines of sea urchins for protection.

    Abalone eat algae with their file-like tongue called a radula.



  Most people are surprised to learn that abalone are snails. In California, there are eight species of abalone. Abalone attach themselves firmly to rocks with a muscular foot. Small abalone scrape bacteria and diatoms off the rocks for food. Larger abalone depend on drift algae for food, especially deteriorating kelp. Abalone grow very slowly, taking about seven years to grow to seven inches. Although a female abalone may lay millions of eggs, very few make it to adulthood. As the eggs hatch, the "babies" float in the plankton for several days.

Abalone are members of the family Haliotidae. The genus name is Haliotis, which means "sea ear," and refers to the flattened spiral shape of the shell. The name abalone is probably derived from the Spanish-American word aulon or aulone. The shell protects the body of the abalone. Along the side is a row of respiratory pores along the spiral that allows water to bathe the gills for oxygen absorption and for flushing away bodily wastes.

Today, abalone populations are dwindling. White Abalone has been identified as an endangered species.
To learn more about abalone, visit the Aquatic Nursery at the Aquarium.