Two forms of Venerupis rhomboides occur in Plymouth waters. A more slender form, corresponding to that described by Pennant, occurs in the Eddystone shell gravel, and a more robust form, corresponding to the Venus sarniensis of Turton, occurs at the mouth of the River Yealm. The two forms differ in ratios of shell height, width and lunule width relative to shell length. A population with intermediate ratios is found at 6-5 m in Plymouth Sound.
Plots of height/length ratios of these and another intermediate sample on probability paper did not indicate that the intermediate populations were composed of mixtures of the two extreme forms, and it was provisionally concluded that these were all variants of a single species.
If the height/length ratios of series of samples from different localities are plotted against depth of water on a logarithmic scale, an inverse relationship, approaching a straight line, is obtained. Regression lines for median ratios in the 3-4 and 4-5 cm length groups have been plotted separately, as there is some change in proportion with increasing length. These show a highly significant negative correlation between shell ratios and depth.
From the regression lines it has been possible to obtain an estimate of the depth inhabited by even quite small samples of shells. Depth estimations have been made for eight samples, consisting mainly of dead shells. Six samples lay within the expected limits, and discrepancies in the other two samples are attributed to transport along the sea floor.
The possible causes of the differences in shell ratios are discussed. Previous work suggests that shell ratios may be affected by different rates of growth. Soil grade, temperature, food supply, and light penetration are considered unlikely causes of the observed differences in shell ratios, and it is suggested that the pattern of growth may be affected by pressure.
The Appendix contains a key to British species of Venerupis.