lightning whelk shell

The Whelks of Florida

English: Living specimen of Busycon carica out...
English: Living specimen of Busycon carica out of water at Bethany Beach, Delaware. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Whelk shells of Florida are widely collected and they can be some of the largest shells you’ll find on Florida beaches. (Don’t collect them if they are inhabited.)

The Knobbed Whelk (Busycon carica), Channeled Whelk (Busycon canaliculatum), Pear Whelk (Busycon spiratum) and Lightning Whelk (Busycon contrarium) can all be quite large – the Pear is the smallest.  In fact the Lightning Whelk can grow to a length of 16 inches. Common characteristics include their long shape with a wide opening.

Of these four, the Pear Whelk is least common. It is pear shaped (imagine that!) and grows to a length of 5 1/2 inches. I have come across pear whelks out on the sandy flats while boating. They have always been inhabited by hermit crabs but I have taken photos like the one below.

pear whelk seashell
Pear whelk seashell with hermit crab inside

All four whelks live in the sand intertidally (between the high tide and low tide marks) and the Knobbed Whelk is also common on Cape Cod, Massachusetts and abundant in southern New England.

You can read more about these seashells at the Guide to Northeast Florida Whelks.



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