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NATURAL HISTORY

Pinto Abalone } Haliotis Kamschatkana
FAMILY: Haliotidae

DESCRIPTION: Pinto abalones are members of the gastropod family, and like most snails have a large muscular foot and an ear-shaped shell. The pinto abalone’s shell is mottled red and green, with a mother-of-pearl interior. With a face only a mother would love, the pinto abalone uses its multiple tentacles to search for food and to detect predators.

HABITAT AND RANGE: Pinto abalones are found in rocky intertidal areas along the West Coast of North America and are generally associated with kelp forests. The pinto abalone range from Turtle Bay, Baja California to Sitka Island, Alaska.

MOVEMENTS: Pinto abalones use their muscular foot to travel up to 6 feet a day, but generally return to the same area each day and are quite sedentary.

REPRODUCTION: Larger pinto abalones produce exponentially more gametes than their smaller counterparts, meaning a population must contain many mature individuals for reproduction to be successful. Pinto abalone reproduce in the spring via broadcast spawning. This means male and female adults release gametes into the water column at the same time, and requires that abalone be grouped in close proximity to successfully reproduce. If sperm and egg meet in the water column, they form a zygote, which two to three days later hatches an oceangoing larva. These larvae disperse a relatively short distance, and settle in areas they can find suitable rocky substrate, feeding on coralline algae as they mature. Larval abalone survive for only short periods of time prior to settlement, meaning it is difficult for pinto abalone to repopulate an area once they have been removed. Pinto abalone are long-lived, with adults living into their 40s.

FEEDING: Pinto abalone are herbivorous and consume coralline algae and kelp.

THREATS: Poaching continues to be a major threat to the pinto abalone, limiting recovery and removing the most reproductively fertile individuals from the population. Human caused greenhouse gas emissions and resulting ocean acidification and ocean warming are major threats to the continued existence of the pinto abalone. Waters of the Pacific Northwest and North Pacific are rapidly acidifying, which may hinder the pinto abalone’s ability to form its calcium carbonate shell.

POPULATION TREND: Populations have declined by at least 80 percent throughout the pinto abalone’s range, with declines of 100 percent in many areas, especially in the southern portions of their range.

Photo by ADFG