Search for a species:


Advanced search


Class Scaphopoda (Tusk Shells)


James A. Cosgrove


The Class Scaphopoda (scapho = shovel, poda = foot) have a shape similar to that of a modern elephant tusk, thus their common name of “tusk shells”.  There the similarity ends, however, as scaphopods are small (4 mm – 15 cm) and the hollow shell is open at both ends.

Scaphopods live in the oceans from very shallow water to depths of over 4,500 meters.

Approximately 1,200 species are currently described with about half that number being extinct and half still living.  Scaphopods have a very similar habitat and lifestyle to that of the aplacophorans and the monoplacophorans in that they burrow into the mud or sand and will consume the organic materials found in the substrate.

Scaphopods resemble other molluscs in having a muscular foot, a mantle that produces the shell and a radula for feeding.

Scaphopod shells have long been valued as money by a number of First Nations groups.  Strings of scaphopod shells sewn to hides were used as currency to pay for goods and services.  Scaphopod shells are still highly prized by shell collectors.


Please cite these pages as:

Author, date, page title. In:   Klinkenberg, Brian. (Editor) 2023. E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Fauna of British Columbia []. Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. [Date Accessed]

© Copyright 2023 E-Fauna BC.