The Helmet seashells can be Kings or Queens, but surprisingly, the Queen Helmet (photo at Flickr) is larger. It’s scientific name is Cassis madagascariensis, which includes the word “madagascar”, the name given over 100 years ago when it was thought (incorrectly) that the shell was found on the island of Madagascar.
It is not easy to find a Queen Helmet, which is also known as an Emperor Helmet, as the populations are low, but it lives in shallow sandy water and on coral reefs to 30 feet deep. In Florida, it is most often found on the eastern coastline from mid-state to throughout the Florida Keys, but it may also be found from the North Carolina coast to the West Indies. (In Florida, the King Helmet can only be found in the Keys, and it is more brown colored and usually smaller.) They like to eat sea urchins and sand dollars.
The shell can be 12-14 inches long and has a wide opening that looks like a big, crazy grin with teeth no less! Not real teeth, but markings resembling teeth. The shell is stocky and heavy and light colored except for the opening (aperture) which is caramel tan. The spire (pointed part) is flattened, which gives it its chunky appearance.
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