For the human use of Haliotis molluscs, see Abalone.
Temporal range: Late Cretaceous – Recent[1]
Living abalone in tank showing epipodium and tentacles, anterior end to the right.
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Mollusca
Class: Gastropoda
Clade: Vetigastropoda
Superfamily: Haliotoidea
Family: Haliotidae
Genus: Haliotis
Linnaeus, 1758
Type species
Haliotis asinina Linnaeus, 1758
  • Euhaliotis Wenz, 1938
  • Eurotis Habe & Kosuge, 1964
  • Exohaliotis Cotton & Godfrey, 1933
  • Haliotis (Haliotis) Linnaeus, 1758
  • Haliotis (Marinauris) Iredale, 1937
  • Haliotis (Nordotis) Habe & Kosuge, 1964
  • Haliotis (Notohaliotis) Cotton & Godfrey, 1933
  • Haliotis (Padollus) Montfort, 1810
  • Haliotis (Paua) C. Fleming, 1953
  • Haliotis (Sulculus) H. Adams & A. Adams, 1854
  • Marinauris Iredale, 1927
  • Neohaliotis Cotton & Godfrey, 1933
  • Nordotis Habe & Kosuge, 1964
  • Notohaliotis Cotton & Godfrey, 1933
  • Ovinotis Cotton, 1943
  • Padollus Montfort, 1810
  • Paua C. Fleming, 1953
  • Sanhaliotis Iredale, 1929
  • Schismotis Gray, 1856
  • Teinotis H. Adams & A. Adams, 1854
  • Tinotis P. Fischer, 1885 (invalid: unjustified emendation of Teinotis)
  • Usahaliotis Habe & Kosuge, 1964

Haliotis, common name abalone (US), pāua (NZ), or ormer (UK), is the only genus in the family Haliotidae.[2]

This genus used to contain 6 subgenera. These subgenera have become alternate representations of Haliotis.[4] The genus consists of small to very large edible herbivorous sea snails, marine gastropod molluscs. The number of species recognized worldwide ranges between 30[3] and 130 [4] with over 230 species-level taxa described. The most comprehensive treatment of the family considers 56 species valid, with 18 additional subspecies.[8]


The iridescent inside surface of a red abalone shell from Northern California. The coin is about one inch in diameter.

The shells of abalones have a low, open, spiral structure, and are characterized by having several open respiratory pores in a row near the shell's outer edge. The thick inner layer of the shell is composed of nacre (mother-of-pearl), which in many species of abalone is highly iridescent, giving rise to a range of strong changeable colors, which make the shells attractive to humans as decorative objects, in jewelry, and as a source of colorful mother-of-pearl.

The shell of abalones is convex, rounded to oval shape, and may be highly arched or very flattened. The shell of the majority of species is ear-shaped, presenting a small flat spire and two to three whorls. The last whorl, known as the body whorl, is auriform, meaning that the shell resembles an ear, giving rise to the common name "ear shell". Haliotis asinina has a somewhat different shape, as it is more elongated and distended. The shell of Haliotis cracherodii cracherodii is also unusual as it has an ovate form, is imperforate, shows an exserted spire, and has prickly ribs.

A mantle cleft in the shell impresses a groove in the shell, in which are the row of holes (known as tremata), characteristic of the genus. These holes are respiratory apertures for venting water from the gills and for releasing sperm and eggs into the water column. They make up what is known as the selenizone which form as the shell grows. This series of 8 to 38 holes is near the anterior margin. Only a small number are generally open. The older holes are gradually sealed up as the shell grows and new holes form. Therefore the number of tremata is not characteristic for the species. Each species has a number of open holes, between four and ten, in the selenizone. This number is not fixed and can vary within a species and between populations. Abalones have no operculum. The aperture of the shell is very wide and nacreous.

The exterior of the shell is striated and dull. The color of the shell is very variable from species to species which may reflect the animal's diet.[5] The iridescent nacre that lines the inside of the shell varies in color from silvery white, to pink, red and green-red to deep blue, green to purple.

The animal shows fimbriated head-lobes. The side-lobes are also fimbriated and cirrated. The rounded foot is very large. The radula has small median teeth, and the lateral teeth are single and beam-like. There are about 70 uncini, with denticulated hooks, the first four very large. The soft body is coiled around the columellar muscle, and its insertion, instead of being on the columella, is on the middle of the inner wall of the shell. The gills are symmetrical and both well developed.[6]

These snails cling solidly with their broad muscular foot to rocky surfaces at sublittoral depths, although some species such as Haliotis cracherodii used to be common in the intertidal zone. Abalones reach maturity at a relatively small size. Their fecundity is high and increases with their size (from 10,000 to 11 million eggs at a time). The spermatozoa are filiform and pointed at one end, and the anterior end is a rounded head.[7]

The larvae are lecithotrophic. The adults are herbivorous and feed with their rhipidoglossan radula on macroalgae, preferring red or brown algae. Sizes vary from 20 millimetres (0.79 in) (Haliotis pulcherrima) to 200 millimetres (7.9 in) while Haliotis rufescens is the largest of the genus at 12 inches (30 cm).[8]

Abalones are herbivorous on hard substrata.

By weight, approximately 1/3 of the animal is edible meat, 1/3 is offal, and 1/3 is shell.


Abalone with a live sponge on its shell in Póvoa de Varzim, Portugal.

The haliotid family has a worldwide distribution, along the coastal waters of every continent, except the Pacific coast of South America, the East Coast of the United States, the Arctic, and Antarctica[9] The majority of abalone species are found in cold waters, such as off the coasts of New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, Western North America, and Japan.

Structure and properties of the shell

The shell of the abalone is exceptionally strong and is made of microscopic calcium carbonate tiles stacked like bricks. Between the layers of tiles is a clingy protein substance. When the abalone shell is struck, the tiles slide instead of shattering and the protein stretches to absorb the energy of the blow. Material scientists around the world are studying this tiled structure for insight into stronger ceramic products such as body armor.[10] The dust created by grinding and cutting abalone shell is dangerous; appropriate safeguards must be taken to protect people from inhaling these particles.


The number of species that are recognized within the genus Haliotis has fluctuated over time, and depends on the source that is consulted. The number of recognized species range from 30[3] to 130.[4] This list finds a compromise using the "WoRMS" database, plus some species that have been added, for a total of 57.[2][11] The majority of abalone have not been rated for conservation status. Those that have been reviewed tend to show that the abalone in general is an animal that is declining in numbers, and will need protection throughout the globe.

Species of abalone
Species Range Conservation Status
Haliotis alfredensis Bartsch, 1915[nb 1] South Africa Not Rated
Haliotis arabiensis Owen, Regter & Van Laethem, 2016 Off Yemen and Oman Not rated
Haliotis asinina Linnaeus, 1758 Philippines; Indonesia; Australia; Japan; Thailand Not Rated
Haliotis australis Gmelin, 1791 New Zealand Not Rated
Haliotis brazieri Angas, 1869 Eastern Australia Not Rated
Haliotis clathrata Reeve, 1846 Seychelles; Comores; Madagascar; Mauritius; Kenya Not Rated
Haliotis coccoradiata Reeve, 1846 Eastern Australia Not Rated
Haliotis corrugata Wood, 1828 California, USA; Baja California, Mexico Species of Concern National Marine Fisheries Service;[14] Vulnerable(Global) & Imperiled(State: California) California Department of Fish and Wildlife[15]
Haliotis cracherodii Leach, 1814 California, USA; Baja California, Mexico CR IUCN;[16] Vulnerable(Global, Nation: US, State: California) California Department of Fish and Wildlife;[15][17] Listed Endangered National Marine Fisheries Service[18]
Haliotis cyclobates Péron & Lesueur, 1816 Southern Australia Not Rated
Haliotis dalli Henderson, 1915 Galapagos Islands Not Rated
Haliotis discus Reeve, 1846 Japan; South Korea Not Rated
Haliotis dissona (Iredale, 1929) Australia; New Caledonia Not Rated
Haliotis diversicolor Reeve, 1846 Japan; Australia; Southeast Asia Not Rated
Haliotis drogini Owen & Reitz, 2012 Not Rated
Haliotis elegans Koch & Philippi, 1844 Western Australia Not Rated
Haliotis exigua Dunker, R.W., 1877 Japan Not Rated
Haliotis fatui Geiger, 1999 Tonga Mariana Islands Not Rated
Haliotis fulgens Philippi, 1845 California, USA; Baja California, Mexico Vulnerable (Global, State: California California Department of Fish and Wildlife);[15] Species of Concern NMFS[19]
Haliotis geigeri Owen, 2014 Not Rated
Haliotis gigantea Gmelin, 1791 Japan Not Rated
Haliotis glabra Gmelin, 1791 Philippines Not Rated
Haliotis iris Gmelin, 1791 New Zealand; Vanuatu Not Rated
Haliotis jacnensis Reeve, 1846 Japan; Nicobar Islands; Ryukyu Islands; Pacific Islands; Not Rated
Haliotis kamtschatkana Jonas, 1845 Western North America Endangered IUCN;[20] Imperiled (Nation: Canada, State: Alaska, Province: British Columbia), Vulnerable (Global, Nation: US), Critically imperiled (State: California);[15][21] Species of Concern NMFS[22]
Haliotis laevigata Donovan, 1808 South Australia; Tasmania Not Rated
Haliotis madaka (Habe, 1977) Japan; South Korea Not Rated
Haliotis mariae Wood, 1828 Oman; Yemen Not Rated
Haliotis marmorata Linnaeus, 1758 Liberia; Ivory Coast; Ghana Not Rated
Haliotis (Marinauris) matihetihensis (Eagle, 1999)
Haliotis melculus (Iredale, 1927) Australia (New South Wales, Queensland) Not Rated
Haliotis midae Linnaeus, 1758 South Africa Not Rated
Haliotis mykonosensis Owen, Hanavan & Hall, 2001 Greece; Turkey; Tunisia Not Rated
Haliotis ovina Gmelin, 1791 Thailand; southern part of the Pacific Ocean; Andaman Islands; Maldives; Ryukyu Islands Not Rated
Haliotis parva Linnaeus, 1758 South Africa; Angola Not Rated
Haliotis planata G. B. Sowerby II, 1882 Ryukyu Islands; Sri Lanka; Indonesia; Fiji; Andaman Sea Not Rated
Haliotis pourtalesii Dall, 1881 Gulf of Mexico; Eastern South America; Northern Colombia Not Rated
Haliotis pulcherrima Gmelin, 1791 Polynesia Not Rated
Haliotis queketti E.A. Smith, 1910 South Africa; Mozambique; Kenya Not Rated
Haliotis roei Gray, 1826 Australia Not Rated
Haliotis rubiginosa Reeve, 1846 Lord Howe Island; Malakula Island Not Rated
Haliotis rubra Leach, 1814 Southern and Eastern Australia Not Rated
Haliotis rufescens Swainson, 1822 Western North America Apparently Secure (Global, Nation: US); Critically Imperiled (Canada)[23]
Haliotis rugosa Lamarck, 1822 South Africa; Madagascar; Mauritius; Red Sea Not Rated
Haliotis scalaris (Leach, 1814) Southern and Western Australia Not Rated
Haliotis semiplicata Menke, 1843 Western Australia Not Rated
Haliotis sorenseni Bartsch, 1940 California, USA; Baja California, Mexico Critically Imperiled (Global, Nation: US, State: California);[15][24] Endangered NMFS[25]
Haliotis spadicea Donovan, 1808 South Africa Not Rated
Haliotis speciosa Reeve, 1846 Eastern South Africa Not Rated
Haliotis squamosa Gray, 1826 Madagascar; Eastern Australia; Okinawa Not Rated
Haliotis stomatiaeformis Reeve, 1846 Malta; Pacific Islands Not Rated
Haliotis supertexta Lischke, 1870 Japan; Sao Tome Not Rated
Haliotis thailandis Dekker & Patamakanthin, 2001 Andaman Sea Not Rated
Haliotis tuberculata Linnaeus, 1758 Ireland (introduced); Channel Islands; Azores; Canary Islands; Japan; Madeira ; Brittany; Great Britain Not Rated
Haliotis unilateralis Lamarck, 1822 Gulf of Aqaba; East Africa; Seychelles; Not Rated
Haliotis varia Linnaeus, 1758 Mascarene basin; Red Sea; Sri Lanka; Western Pacific; Not Rated
Haliotis virginea Gmelin, 1791 New Zealand; Chatham Islands; Auckland Islands; Campbell Island; Fiji Not Rated
Haliotis walallensis Stearns, 1899 Western North America Not Rated


See also


  1. This species, depending on the source is its own species[12] or is a synonym of Haliotis speciosa.[13]
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