An extremely attractive species with wide, beautifully pleated varices, the “Bednall’s Murex” is a highly sought-after muricid endemic to Australia. Ranging from Kimberly, Western Australia to Northern Territory, it is a carnivorous and predatory gastropod feeding on other invertebrate animals inhabiting soft bottom with scattered rocks in shallow water from low intertidal zone down to about -30m.

Although only uncommon it is famous for its fine-looking shell and the market demand is very high, and thus specimens usually fetch high prices. Another factor contributing to its high price is that large, beautiful specimens with intact fronds are rarely found. As its habitat (usually mud flats with scattered rocks) becomes exposed and accessible on extreme low tides, it is a prime target of conchologists collecting during such times in Australia.

It is an instantly recognisable species, but the varix development is very variable among individuals in terms of the width. The colouration is also very variable, from white to orange to pink to dark brown. Typical shell length around 70mm, extremely large specimens may exceed 95mm.

The Aboriginal Australians call it the “butterfly shell”, inspired by its large wing-like varices. It is named in honour of the Australian malacologist William Tompson Bednall (1838-1915) who worked on many groups of molluscs but is perhaps most famous for his masterly treatment of polyplacophorans (chitons). – Adapted from Chong Chen’s post

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