<marine biology> Any gastropod of the genus Ianthina, of which various species are found living in mid ocean; called also purple shell, and violet snail.

It floats at the surface by means of a raft, which it constructs by forming and uniting together air bubbles of hardened mucus. The Tyrian purple of the ancients was obtained in part from mollusks of this genus.

Alternative forms: janthina.

Origin: NL, fr. L. Ianthinus violet-blue, Gr.; violet + flower.

(19 Mar 1998)

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