Category Archives: Whelk shells

Seashells called whelks

pear whelk on seashell bottom

About the Little Pear Whelk Seashell

Pear whelks (Busycotypus spiratus) are cute little seashells and they can be colorful. They resemble the lightning whelk, before it grows big. But the Pear whelk has it’s opening on the right side, like most gastropods.  This one is also called a Fig whelk and it’s max length is 5.5 inches.  In Florida it is common along any shoreline.

In this first photo you can see the operculum (trap door) which is a hard piece that closes the mollusk up inside it’s home.  The snail is beginning to come out of the shell because I picked it up from the shelly bottom where he had been resting quietly.

I expected to see a hermit crab inside, and was delighted to see the creature who made the shell instead.  This water is very shallow as you can probably tell, so he was living close to shore.  I snapped this shot and put him back down without bothering him further.

pear whelk mollusk
Living Pear Whelk With Mollusk

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Above: Found this pear whelk while walking along a deserted beach in the backwater area of the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway). I’m guessing they prefer the calmer waters near the islands and that is why I never find them along the ocean beach.

In the photo below you can see how shells can look in the wild. They are not all that pretty when covered in mud and slime. I knew the type by the shape of the shell.  Yup, hermit crab inside.

seashell
Slime covered Pear Whelk Shell

I’ve never collected one of these shells because every one I’ve encountered (except for the live one in my first photo on this page) has been inhabited by a hermit crab! The shells are small and easy to carry on the back of the crab.

yellow pear whelk seashell
Pretty yellow shell

I just loved the pretty yellow color of this Pear. It stood out among the muddy bottom. It was moving along on the back of it’s new owner. Can you guess? Haha!

Below you can see the crab peeking out.  This is what I often encounter.  I think there are more hermit crabs in my area than there are seashells!

pear whelk seashell
Pear whelk seashell with hermit crab inside

Small shells like these are not the only place you will find hermit crabs. I recently pulled up a beautiful big knobbed whelk with such an owner.

knobbed whelk

About the Knobbed Whelk Seashell and Mollusk

When we go out boating in the backwaters along the Intracoastal Waterway in my area I love to stop at islands do some beach-combing.  It’s been cold here in Florida (okay, you don’t feel bad for me, I get it) but finally we had a sunny day in the 70’s, so we went out on the boat.

Among the larger seashells I have found while checking out the wrack lines (up where the tide deposits stuff) is the knobbed whelk (Busycon carica). Usually they are partial shells, or nearly unrecognizable from wear and tear.

The one featured on this page was found just off-shore along a camping island which was deserted the day I was there.  I’ve never found one this whole and beautiful.  It was exciting to see.

knobbed whelk
Beautiful spiral of a knobbed whelk

The water that day was clear, and cold for Florida at 62 degrees. It was January but in the 70’s and sunny. I was wading in the shallow water along the beach when my son spotted this knobbed whelk under the water. This shell was sitting at the edge of that black area of water you see in the photo. Continue reading About the Knobbed Whelk Seashell and Mollusk

lightning whelk mollusk shell

Real Live Lightning Whelk Mollusk

The lightning whelk seashell is one of my favorites, with it’s stripes and long shell opening. It can grow to quite a big shell also. I have seen many of these shells, and have some in my collection, but this is the first time I have found a live mollusk inside a lightning whelk shell.

I have a little video below where you can see it moving along the sand.

lightning whelk shell
Living Lightning Whelk

This shell had a particularly white spire – top swirl – which was quite unqiue. Instead of finding a hermit crab dangling his legs out of the opening, I saw the snail! Honestly, I didn’t expect that when I saw the shell moving around on the soft sand of the river bottom. Once the snail dies, I’m betting a hermit will move in. I may come across this shell again on my adventures.
lightning whelk mollusk shell
This is one of the whelks found in Florida.
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crown conch seashell

Shells I Found on The Muddy Flats

I am beginning to sound like a broken record, but all the shells I found were occupied by hermit crabs, so the best I could do was get some photos.

While traveling the backwaters of the Indian River, we came up behind the islands known as Three Sisters. Since I love to walk along the sandy flats when the tide is out, my son dropped me off and he went out fishing.

I found so many interesting shells in this area that I went back out to the boat to get my camera.

Here’s what I found in this marvelous area of Florida which is mostly untouched by man.

A pretty little yellow Pear Whelk shell. It is similar in looks to the Lightning whelk (second photo), but the opening is on the right, not the left, as in the Lightning whelk.

yellow pear whelk seashell
Little Yellow Pear Whelk Shell – Home to a Hermit Crab
lightning whelk
Little Lightning Whelk

This crown conch is not an unusual find, but I did like the nice size of it’s spikes. Often the spikes can be worn down from all the tumbling about in the ocean, but these spikes were long and sharp. Had to get a photo before the crab inside scampered away.

crown conch seashell
Crown Conch with Great Big Spikes

I wasn’t too sure what this little gray shell was, but I think it’s a faded pear whelk. It’s my best guess.

seashell in mud
Little gray shell

And here’s a real beauty… Yes, this is a seashell. It’s round, and mud covered, but it’s one of my favorite shells. Any guesses? Click to see a good photo of the Shark’s Eye shell.

mud covered round sharks eye seashell
Yes, it’s a seashell!

And my favorite find of the day was this awesome big True Tulip shell. My book says max 5 inches for this one, but this one is more like 6 inches. It has a broken opening with an oyster attached to the inside, and of course, a hermit crab has taken up residence.

true tulip shell
Big True Tulip shell, next to my foot

All these shells and many many more were living in close proximity on this sandy bottom surrounded by oyster beds.  Shells could be seen scurrying along just under the water at low tide, but the crab would stop and hide once I approached.  They tuck themselves all the way up inside these shells, so it looks unoccupied, but I know better.

oyster bed
Oyster bed along the sandy flats
horseshoe crab seashell beach

Big Whelks, Oysters and Something Unexpected

One of the shells in my photo below contains a creature hiding within. He was so secretive that I never knew he was there for a full day after bringing these shells home. So here’s the story…

broken whelks big seashells
Big Whelks found along Indian River

My sons and I went boating in our little Gheenoe a couple days ago. It was not windy at our house, but once we got over to the River we saw whitecaps and knew we would be dealing with wind. Windy conditions and rough water are not a big deal unless you happen to be traveling in a canoe with a motor. With three of us in the little boat it won’t go fast, and because it sits so low in the water, we tend to get wet.

Because of this we didn’t travel far. The closest big island is where we stopped, and I got out to search for seashells. The boys used the trolling motor and went just offshore to do some fishing.   We had the place to ourselves.

The shell hunt began. First I walked the inner side of the island which was extremely windy. I saw a lot of horseshoe crabs – alive and dead, and of course oysters. More than once I’ve been faked out when I think I’ve discovered a big shell in the shallows only to find it’s a nasty clump of oysters!

oysters attached to tree roots
Oysters growing on tree roots along the island coastline

All the cute little shells along the shoreline were moving. Hermit crabs take up residence and steal all the good seashells for themselves. Each beautiful specimen I came across was inhabited, so I took photos and had to be happy with that. Those seashell finds I will share on my next post.

On the inland side of the island, where I was more sheltered from the wind, I found something that made my heart race. A big yellow seashell was up on shore and looked to be buried in the sand.  A shell on the shore means the mollusk is not inside.  Sea snails live in the water.   The fact that it was not moving gave me the impression that a hermit crab was not inside. I was excited, but I should have known better.  I took this photo before picking it up.  Doesn’t it look like it could be a great find?
yellow w WM
Unfortunately the underneath of that shell (which I believe is a knobbed whelk) was completely broken open, so what I saw in the sand is all there was to the shell.   The mollusk had died and the broken shell did not give shelter for a crab.  In other words it was useless to sea life.  I took it home, along with the other broken shells I found.

But the big surprise came the day after our trip to the island, when a hermit crab appeared in the opening of one of the broken shells! Can you guess which shell, from my first photo above?

When I got home I soaked all the shells in water with a small amount of bleach to clean them off.  I left them on the cement deck outside all night and then cleaned them one at a time the next day.  When they were dry, I set them on the table and that is when my son noticed a big hermit crab emerging from the one below!
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Yup, a good size hermit crab is inside the top of this broken, faded and worn Channeled whelk shell.  The inner top of this shell must be hollow and he had scrunched himself into that area.  We could see a bit of his legs through that top broken piece.

We did the only thing we could do to help the crab survive.  We drove over to the River and tossed the shell back into the sea water.

You can see pictures of the Channeled Whelk as it is before it becomes as destroyed as mine is on the “i love shelling” site, where Pam (the blog owner) is fortunate to live and travel to great shelling places.  She writes from the fabulous Gulf Coast, Sanibel area, where gorgeous seashells are everywhere.

I have to work hard just to find these broken ones!  But it’s fun, and who knows, one day I may find something spectacular out there.