Surrounded by miles of beautiful beaches, when residents of the state of Florida decided to choose one type of mollusk as it’s state shell, I imagine that it was difficult.
In 1969 the Horse Conch won the title. The shell is found in the waters all around Florida and can grow to be very large. It can be up to two feet in length and the animal living inside is bright orange. It is the largest snail living in North America so I imagine that is the reason the Horse Conch won the title.
When my son and I go boating we occasionally find living horse conchs out on the mud flats at low tide.
The living horse conch has a dark brown coating on it’s shell. Often the shells are not very pretty when I see them in the wild. Usually they are partly buried in the muck.
When the shell is exposed to sun, the coating, called periostracum, dries and flakes off to leave a whitish shell.
Shells found in nature will most likely have a much different appearance than the shells you see in pictures because those have usually been cleaned up. Knowing the basic shape of a shell or some other characteristics – other than color – may help you identify what you have found.
The juvenile horse conch is yellowish in color. Usually the ones I find have hermit crabs inside.
A shell which resembles the horse conch is the Tulip shell. It is also elongated but with rounded and smooth body whorls as compared to the bumps on a horse conch. Tulip shells don’t grow as large and the snail is not bright orange like the horse.
Read more on this blog About the Horse Conch.
View a list of some other states that have chosen to have a “state shell” and what they chose: Here