The Crown Conch (Melongena corona) seashell, sometimes called a King’s Crown , is one I see often when out on the islands beach-combing. Because of it’s distinctive pointy spikes around the outer swirls of the shell, I can easily recognize it.
It’s a pretty shell with horizontal brown, reddish or gray, and off-white stripes on the adults. I have not seen a living crown conch. Juvenile shells can be other colors like the purple-blue one below – what a beauty!, and the tan one at the end of this post.
Usually, when I see them, the colors are partially obscured by slime – as are most of the shells I find. The part of the shell that has been dragging along the sand is most colorful.
This recent find stood out to me because of all those spikes! This is really a lot, compared to the ones I usually find (photos further down the page).
Juvenile crown conchs will not have those big spikes, but will grow them later on. I found a small one (photo below) but it had a hermit crab inside. So it will never grow up. Hermit crabs don’t kill mollusks that make the shells, but they never miss an opportunity to take possession of an empty shell!
Once the mollusk dies, hermit crabs move in. In the area where I fish and beach-comb the bottom is sometimes mucky, and that carries over to the shells. Often they are not pretty. Slime and even oysters can be growing inside, or barnacles on the outside.
The huge shell below was one I collected because it was empty. It is broken and worn and the mollusk was obviously old when he died. He’d had plenty of time to create this oversized shell. Max size of the crown conch is 5 inches, and this one measured 6 inches plus. Because it’s not very pretty, it now has a home in my garden. Empty ones can be cleaned, but I didn’t go nuts with this broken one. The green and black slime fades away once the shell sits in the hot sun.
As you can see in many of the photos on this page, the spikey shells also have some spikes near the base of the shell.
I live in central Florida on the East coast. Over on the Gulf coast lives a lucky lady who gets to see some awesome seashell happenings.
Here’s a video of baby King’s Crown shells hatching.