A chilly boat ride took us to Three Sisters, among other places, where we found interesting shells filled with hermit crabs. Often I have seen tiny horse conchs, and a few times we’ve seen massive horse conchs, but this horse conch was medium size.
As I waded through the 62 degree water on a 60 degree day, with a wind chill, I came across this pretty little shell. I knew right off that it was a horse conch, but it was larger than the ones I usually find.
This shell had a very large hermit crab inside and he was tucked way down in. I couldn’t keep the shell so I got a few pictures on my iPhone, which I hoped would come out.
Here you can see the pretty lines and bumps which make up the shell, and orange to reddish brown coloring. I’m guessing that this shell was about 5-6 inches long. The snail had died for whatever reason, and a large hermit crab had moved in. Although I previously had read that Hermit crabs do NOT kill mollusks for their shell, this article has opened my eyes to the possibility. However, the crab mentioned lives in farther southern waters.
It is curious as to how hermit crabs just happen to find empty shells the correct size to hold their bodies. In this vast expanse of river, how would that happen? Hermit crabs don’t run around without shells, so how does it all begin?
A few weeks ago when we were out on the river, there were no hermit crabs anywhere, and very few shells at all. It makes me wonder if any of the hermits I see will kill a mollusk / snail and take over the shell for their home.
The horse conch shell was not in perfect condition and it was encrusted with mud, but it was a beauty just the same. Had it lived, it may have become up to 2 feet long. We have occasionally seen living horse conchs out on the little islands along the Indian River backwaters.
We drove the Hewe’s Redfisher in behind Three Sisters and walked the sandy areas that were showing at low tide. But the water was coming back in, so the sand was disappearing. My son found a starfish / sea star, which I have never come across ever. This one was unfortunately dead and was missing two legs with another one broken. I came across a few gatherings of hermit crabs where it appeared they were checking out each other’s shells. We saw lots of little “baby” mollusks crawling about as well. This area is usually full of interesting wild creatures from the sea, and today did not disappoint.
Various Horse Conchs I’ve Seen on Florida’s East Coast
Even if the shells can’t be collected, the photos are fun to share. Being educated about what can be found in this wilderness area of Florida is my goal with this blog.
3 thoughts on “March Hermits in Medium Size Horse Conch”
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Those horse conch shells are pretty incredible. I once saw a film of a hermit crab swapping shells (it was narrated by David Attenborough) and they have to do it fast, because sometimes the new shell is too small and they have to rush back to their recently vacated shell!
Yes, those hermits don’t like to bare their bodies for more than a second and there are so many crabs in this area that they must really have to be quick. It’s funny, but every shell I find is inhabited, so where are the empties? I wonder if they (the crabs) are all gathered in a clump to oust the weakest crab and then claim their new homes.