Haliotis iris was originally credited to Martyn, 1784 but his work was invalidated in 1957 by the ICZN. This marine species is endemic to New Zealand. Blackfoot paua is the largest abalone species found in New Zealand. It is most commonly found in shallow cool waters at depths less than 6 m. The species occurs all around mainland New Zealand, Stewart Island, and the Chatham Islands. These sea snails often form large clusters in the sub-littoral zone on open, exposed coasts, where drift seaweed accumulates and there is good water movement. Blackfoot paua grow to about 180 mm in shell width. Three species of abalone occur naturally in New Zealand: blackfoot paua (Haliotis iris), yellowfoot paua (Haliotis australis), and whitefoot paua (Haliotis virginea). Haliotis iris is the only farmed species of paua found in New Zealand. This is mainly because of their size compared to its smaller relatives – the “yellow foot paua” and the even smaller “virgin paua” – which are also commonly used for jewellery arts and carvings around New Zealand. There is a worldwide trade in natural pearls from this species, which are known as Haliotis iris pearls or Paua pearls.

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