Amazingly Detailed Spire of the Channeled Whelk

channeled whelk

Some days spent out on the water can be so worth it. When I found this little channeled whelk on an island beach, it made my day….!

I took loads of photos to capture the memory, and decided to share some of them here.

This is not a shell I see regularly in my area, and of course it was inhabited by a hermit crab, so I couldn’t collect it. The channeled whelks I have seen are always broken or old or identified incorrectly. Like I said, I don’t see them much.

little channeled whelk seashells
Pretty channeled whelk

Those bumps around the raised spire are fascinating and really beautiful. It is described this way, “A pear shaped snail shell with deep channels between the whorls”. To me, it looks like a layer cake. Maybe I am just hungry.

Between the sunny coloring and the dotted border of the whorls, I was mesmerized by this little, broken shell.

small channeled whelk
Although this shell is broken, it’s beautifully made

Mitchell Publications has a photo of various Channeled Whelks and it brought to mind a shell I found a while ago and couldn’t name. It was a small gray shell with a little “dot” on top. I probably labeled it as a pear whelk.

Below is a very old and worn channeled whelk. You can barely make out the bumps along the whorls at the top. This majorly broken shell actually was home to a hermit crab. I had collected it not knowing, because those crabs can tuck themselves way up inside the tiniest of spaces. I had to drive back over to the water (fortunately not too far) and put it back!

large broken whelk shell
White and broken channeled whelk shell remains

I don’t think I have a channeled whelk in my seashell collection. The little yellow one was discovered on the same day I encountered the creepy spider crab.

Facts About the Channeled Whelk

  • The Channeled whelk (Busycon canaliculatum or Busycotypus canaliculatus) mollusk feeds on oysters and clams.
  • They are eaten by blue crabs.
  • It can be found along the eastern United States, from Cape Cod to northern Florida. I live on the coast near the middle of Florida, so it could be why I don’t see that many.
  • Size can be up to 8 inches.
  • Coloring can be gray, tan, yellow, or white (albino)

Shells That Are Similar to the Channeled Whelk

The shell below is a Knobbed Whelk and although it is similar to the Channeled Whelk, the bumps are larger and spaced apart. The top is flatter, as the top of the Channeled whelk looks “pulled up”.

This shell is the gorgeous one that “got away”. A big hermit crab was living inside so I took photos and put it back in the water.

knobbed whelk
A beautiful knobbed whelk found in the Indian River

If you look at the knobbed whelks in my photo below, you will understand why I was so excited to find the whelk pictured above. It was a vast improvement on what I usually see! By the way, the “white” shells here are bleached by the sun and weather. Their beautiful original coloring has faded. The shell on the left is a Horse Conch.

old worn conch and whelk shells
Worn horse conch and two broken knobbed whelks

Pear Whelks and Crown Conchs

Below are some Pear Whelks and a couple of Crown Conchs in the center. The pear whelk is smoother than the channeled species and the crown conch has spiked ridges.

Pear whelks

The Lightning Whelk

The Lightning whelk really cannot be mistaken for a Channeled whelk, unless it is an old and worn shell. Even so, the Lightning whelk has it’s opening on the left side – and that makes it unique. It contains “bumps” and a bit of a spire, but really, I think they are easy to tell apart.

lightning whelk
The Left-Handed Lightning Whelk

Below is what I believe to be a piece of a lightning whelk. I find many black shells around Ponce Inlet, and if you wonder how shells become black, please read my post.

black seashell
Black Lightning Whelk

The channeled whelk shell is a true beauty. I feel fortunate to have found it. Now, in it’s “second life”, it is still useful as a home to the hermit crabs in this area.

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