AskDefine | Define murex

User Contributed Dictionary

see Murex



mūrex, mūricis m
  1. A shellfish used as a source of the dye Tyrian purple
  2. The purple dye so produced, the cloth dyed with it.
  3. any sharp object, esp. a caltrop

Extensive Definition

Murex is a genus of medium to large sized predatory tropical sea snails. These are carnivorous marine gastropod molluscs in the family Muricidae, the murexes or rock snails.
The common name "murex" is also used for a large number of species in the family Muricidae, most of which in the past were originally given the Latin generic name Murex, but most of which have now been grouped in other newer genera.
The word murex was used by Aristotle in reference to these kinds of snails, thus Murex is arguably one of the oldest classical shell names still in use by the scientific community.


Murex is an Indo-Pacific genus, as demonstrated by Ponder & Vokes (1988). The species from the western Atlantic, which were formerly considered as Murex, are now placed in the genus Haustellum.


Most Murex species live in the intertidal or shallow subtidal zone, among rocks and corals.

Shell description

This genus includes many showy members, their elongate shells highly sculptured with spines or fronds. The inner surfaces of their ornate shells are often brightly coloured.

Human use

A costly and labor-intensive dyes Tyrian purple (or royal purple) and Tekhelet was historically made using mucus from the hypobranchial gland of two species commonly referred to as "murex", Murex brandaris and Murex trunculus, which are the older names for Haustellum brandaris and the Hexaplex trunculus.
This dye was used in royal robes, other kinds of special ceremonial or ritual garments, or garments indicating high rank. It featured prominently in the ancient Temple in Jerusalem, the clothing of the High Priest (or Kohen Gadol) officiating there and continues to be used today by Jews who wear the ritual garment known as a Talit.


  • Ponder, W.F. & E.H. Vokes. 1988. A revision of the Indo-West Pacific fossil and Recent species of Murex s.s. and Haustellum (Mollusca: Gastropoda: Muricidae). Records of the Australian Museum, Supplement 8. 160 pp.
murex in Spanish: Murex
murex in French: Murex
murex in Scottish Gaelic: Murag
murex in Italian: Murex
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