SUMMARY The behaviour of clamping the shell against the substratum may play an important role in the limpet adhesion mechanism because friction generated by this behaviour resists dislodgement by shear forces. This paper describes the development of an apparatus to analyse limpet clamping activity in relation to known forces, including simulated wave activity and predator attack. The results show that Cellana tramoserica clamps its shell in a closely regulated manner consistent with an active role in the limpet adhesion mechanism. Limpets clamped sharply for several seconds in response to single disturbances such as tapping the shell. In response to more continuous disturbance simulating a concerted predator attack, limpets clamped tightly for several minutes. In response to lifting forces applied to the shell, limpets clamped at a set proportion of the lifting force, even if the lift force was a highly dynamic wave profile. This behaviour has implications for numerical models that attempt to describe limpet adhesion because it shows that limpets cannot be represented by a simple mechanical analogue and that the clamping behaviour must be accounted for if useful predictions are to be drawn.