Wentletraps are small, often white, very high-spired, predatory sea snails, marine gastropod mollusks, in the family Epitoniidae.
The word wentletrap originated in German-Dutch (wenteltrap), and it means spiral staircase. These snails are sometimes also called "staircase shells", and "ladder shells".
The Epitoniidae family belongs to the superfamily Epitonioidea , which also includes the Janthinidae (the pelagic purple snails) and the family Nystiellidae, all part of the informal group Ptenoglossa.
Wentletraps inhabit all seas and oceans worldwide, from the tropical zones to the Arctic and Antarctic zones.
Wentletraps are found in habitats which also contain sea anemones
, which serve as a food source for the wentletrap.
Wentletraps are notable for their intricately geometric shell architecture. The turret-shaped shell consists of tightly-wound whorls which create a high, conical spiral. The shells have a round aperture
and a round operculum
which fits the aperture tightly.
Within the genus Epitonium the shell has high, sharply ribbed sculpture, known as "costae".
Most species of wentletrap are white, and have a porcelain-like appearance, measuring no more than two inches in length, and the animal can exude a pink or purplish dye.
Many wentletraps reveal a hint of purple body color, suggestive of carnivorous feeding (Keen, 1958). Keen also cited direct observation of a wentletrap feeding by insertion of its proboscis into a sea anemone.
Genera within the family Epitoniidae
A. Weil, L. Brown and B. Neville, 1999, The Wentletrap Book: A Guide to the Recent Epitoniidae of the World
, Mal de Mer Enterprises