Rapa Whelk

Rapa whelk

Rapana venosa






  • Distinguishing characteristics:  The rapa whelk has a round shell with a short spire and a large body whorl.  The aperature or opening is large and oval-shaped.    They have a distinctive orange color on the aperature and most shells have black veins that run through it.


In the Wild

  • Habitat:  Rapa whelks live on the burrow into the sandy bottom of the saltwater portions of the Bay.
  • Diet:  Rapa whelks are carnivores that typically feed on other mollusks such as oysters or mussels.  Rapa whelks feed by surrounding its prey’s hinge and inserting its proboscis into the shell.
  • Predators:  Adult rapa whelks have very few natural predators.  Blue crabs, turtles and other large predators can feed on
  • Size:  Rapa whelks can reach 6-7 inches long.
  • Breeding:  Rapa whelks lay egg cases in the summer monthes.  It takes 4-6 weeks for larvae to settle to the bottom and begin developing a hard shell.  Rapa whelks can begin reproducing by year two.
  • Life Span:  Rapa whelks can live longer than 10 years.


In the Aquatics Lab

  • Diet:  The rapa whelk at BTW is fed to frozen mussels twice a week.
  • Size:  The rapa whelk at BTW is about 5-6 inches.
  • Quantity:  There is only one rapa whelk at Booker T Washington.



Other information

  • Virginia Regulations:  At one point, there was a bounty on rapa whelks in Virginia because there was a fear of them wiping out the oyster populations since they are an invasive species from the Sea of Japan.
  • Commercial Uses:  There is not a well-developed market for whelks.

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