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  • José H. Leal

The Lettered Olive

The Lettered Olive, Oliva sayana Ravenel, 1834, is a relatively common species on the beaches and sand flats of Southwest Florida. Despite its relative abundance, it is a desirable, collectible species, certainly because of its glossy, colorful shell, and its assorted variations. The locally famous Golden Olive is nothing but a varietal of the species in which the shell lacks darker pigments. Lettered Olives feed on marine worms, crustaceans, small bivalves, among other prey items. They are fast-moving snails (as hinted at in the image on the right), using the anterior, plow-like part of their foot to dig effectively in the soft sand. [This species is now included in the genus Americoliva.]

Photos show the Lettered Olive: from left, shell and live snails from Marco Island and Bunche Beach. Photos by José H. Leal, middle photo by Amy Tripp.

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