Chinese Hat Shellls Calyptrae Chinensis

Chinese Hat Shell || Calyptrae Chinensis

  • Scientific name: Calyptraea chinensis
  • Size: Between 0.7 to 2 centimeters
  • Color: White, red, purple, pink, yellow or brown
  • Family: Calyptraeidae
  • Fun fact: They are nocturnal creatures, meaning they are most active during the night


When I first found a Chinese Hat Shell I didn’t know what it was. Was it a shell? Or was it something else? It was so small and flat. And if it was a shell, how small would that snail be? All those questions made me curious to look into this unique tiny species, the Chinese Hat Shell.



Chinese Hat Shells, scientifically known as Calyptraea Chinensis, earned their common name due to their characteristic shape looking like traditional Chinese hats.

The shell has a cone-shape and vary in color from white, earthy tones to pink and purple. These designs are not only aesthetically pleasing but also serve as camouflage, helping the snails blend into their surroundings. The inside of the shell is smooth.

Chinese Hat Snail Shells from Portugal

These Chinese Hat Shells are relatively small, typically around 0.7 to 2 centimeters which makes them a delightful find for beachcombers.

With only a few centimeters in size, these Chinese Hat Shells all hold a story, a whisper from the sea within them.

Fossils of the Chinese Hat Shells have been discovered dating back to the Pliocene (5.3 – 2.6 million years ago) and Early Pleistocene Epoch (2.6 million – 781,000 years ago). How amazing is that!

Close up Chinese Hat Shell



Chinese Hat Shells are commonly found along the coasts of Portugal, as well as in other countries with suitable environmental conditions such as subtropical waters. They occur in the Mediterranean Sea, The Black Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. These Chinese Hat Shells could also be found along the northern and western coasts of the UK.

The snails of the Chinese Hat prefer rocky environments and can often be found attached to rocks and other hard surfaces along the shoreline. Their choice of habitat plays a role in their protection from predators and the elements.

These snails are nocturnal creatures, meaning they are most active during the night. During daylight hours, they often retreat into the protection of the rocky holes or sandy ground for protection against predators. The snails can attach themselves securely to rocks, reducing the risk of knock off by waves.

Chinese Hat Snail  
Photo by R. Stanić (HR) – (CC BY-NC-SA). 

Beyond the charming look, Chinese Hat Snails are part of a fascinating underwater ecosystem. Like many other snails, they play a role in the marine environment by feeding on algae and serving as a food source for other marine organisms.

Interested in shell art with these one of these Chinese Hat beauties? Go check out the shop and get yours today. 🐚



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