Oyster drill

Oyster drill

John Hepburn

Sting winkle

Wembury Marine Centre

Oyster drill

Scientific name: Ocenebra erinacea
This jagged-shelled sea snail is normally found near its favourite food - oysters!

Species information


Length: up to 6cm and 2.5cm wide.

Conservation status


When to see

January to December


Oyster drills are whelks, living below the low tide mark down to depths of 150m. Surprisingly enough, the oyster drills favourite food are oysters! They feed by boring through the oyster shells with their sharp proboscis.
Oyster drills are native but there's an invader on the Kent and Essex coasts... the American oyster drill has been recorded there. This non-native species also feeds on our native oyster beds.

How to identify

The oyster drill is unmistakeable, being much rougher and more jagged in outline than any other whelk. It is yellow or white in colour, with brown markings. The shell is tall, with an angulated spire and coarse/rigid whorls, which can feel sharp to the touch. The siphonal canal is closed to form a tube in older animals.


Found on rocky shores predominately in the west and south west of the UK. They are usually seen on rocks and under stones to depths of 150m but are also found on the lower parts of sheltered rocky shores in the summer.

Did you know?

The oyster drill is also known as the 'sting winkle' or 'rough tingle'. The common name ‘oyster drill’ comes from the fact that they prey on young oyster spat, using their tongue to drill through the oyster shell, before slurping the insides up like a smoothie!

How people can help

When rockpooling, be careful to leave everything as you found it - replace any rocks you turn over, put back any crabs or fish and ensure not to scrape anything off its rocky home.