Cellana ampla n. sp. from late Eocene rocks in Oregon is the first New World record of a genus and family heretofore considered to have radiated in Australia and the mid-Pacific. Re-examination of some other Eocene limpets from the Pacific Northwest reveals that species previously assigned to Acmaea belong in Patelloida and Siphonaria. Thus, all three major components of the modern Australian limpet guild were present in the late Eocene of western North America along a coastline occupied today by acmaeid limpet guilds. Re-examination of a large Pliocene ‘Patella’ from South America shows the shell structure of a Cellana and constitutes a second documentation of a large nacellid limpet in the New World Tertiary.
Although the taxonomy of modern limpets is founded on anatomical characters, shell structure characters are sufficient to identify genera and families directly in the fossil record. Re-evaluation and reclassification of fossil limpets using shell structure contributes not only to a better understanding of the phylogeny of major limpet groups but also provides a powerful tool for elucidating the evolutionary, biogeographic, and ecologic development of the complexly structured limpet guilds of differing taxonomic composition that dominate rocky intertidal habitats throughout the world.