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. Common characteristics include their long shape with a wide opening down the length of the shell.
Of these four, the Pear Whelk is the smallest when full grown. It grows to a length of 5 1/2 inches. I have come across pear whelks out on the sandy flats while boating. I’ve seen them as yellow, gray and with brown splotches. They are usually inhabited by hermit crabs. Then I recently found one with a live snail inside. (2nd photo)
The Lightning Whelk is another one I find often in the backwater areas. It’s usually small like the pear whelk, but this one can grow to be 16 inches long. It is recognizable by it’s left-side opening.
This is a fairly new photo of the knobbed whelk. I discovered it in January just offshore on an island in the Indian River backwater. A hermit crab was living inside, so I got some photos and returned it to the water.
The channeled whelk is not a shell I have found in one piece. It grows to be 7.5 inches in length. The top spiral part of the shell differs from the other whelks because it looks extended, like someone pulled it out. The whorls on the other shells are tight and semi-flat.
This is the only channeled whelk I have found and even though it was very broken it turned out there was a hermit crab living in it! I had to take it back and return it to the water.
The Channeled whelk only lives along the northeastern coast of Florida to about halfway down the state. I guess that explains why I don’t see many of this kind of shell.
The Coffee melampus shell is small and roundish. The one I photographed is brown in color with horizontal stripes. The hermit crab which was carrying the shell, was hidden down under the large crown conch. It’s one of those small shells which would be easy to overlook while beach-combing. The living crown conchs seemed to […]Read More…
The Bruised Nassa shell is so small that it would be very easy to miss on a sandy beach. They only grow to be 3/4 of an inch and this one is about a half inch. Luckily there was no hermit crab inside so I brought it home to get these photos. I found this […]Read More…
When a reader left me a comment about my big horse conch photo, saying that it looked unusual, I began to look more closely at the horse conch photos I had taken and compare them with photos online. Apparently the horse conchs I usually find are called “knobless wonder”. This is because they lack the […]Read More…