Abalone are marine gastropod molluscs from the phylum Mollusca, family Haliotidae and genus Haliotis. Abalone are found worldwide in the intertidal regions of tropical and subtropical regions to a depth of 40m. They are generally found in groups on rocky reefs and do not move large distances. They reproduce through broadcast spawning into the water column where fertilisation occurs. They hatch into larvae floating on sea currents for approximately a week before they settle onto rocky reef surfaces.
Haliotis (‘sea ear’) refers to the flattened shape of the shell. Abalone have a soft body protected by a coloured calcareous shell secreted by the mantle with a row of respiratory pores. Circling the foot they have a mantle and epipodium with tentacles which projects beyond the shell for sensory detection of their surroundings. The epipodium may be frilly or scalloped with a variety of textures and may protrude beyond the shell. They have an anterior head and a large strong muscular foot which allows the abalone to clamp on to the rocky surfaces of their preferred habitat.
Australia is home to 13 abalone species including the dominant commercial species of Haliotis laevigata, H. rubra, H. conicopora and H. roei. Australia’s wild fishery sustainably provides 50% of the world’s wild abalone harvest. Land based cultured abalone farming is also economically important in Australia. The first Australian abalone genome sequenced is H. laevigata.