A Living Horse Conch in the Shallows

Photos of a living horse conch living in the shallows of the Indian River Lagoon.

Another beautiful day out on the water brought some nice finds. This beautiful living horse conch was crawling along the sandy flats. I picked it up briefly to get a few photos. It was a gorgeous orange snail. The shell was muddy and not so pretty, as is usually the case.

  • living horse conch
  • living horse conch
  • living horse conch
  • living horse conch
  • living horse conch
  • living horse conch

This is the area where this mollusk lives. The water temperature was around 86 degrees F. Air temperature was close to 100. Very few boats came by and we were all alone.

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Never Get Tired of Finding The Living Horse Conch

Today we went out on the boat. It’s been a while since we’ve gone out because the weather has cooled off. We weren’t out for long, and stopped at some favorite beaches because the tide was out.

There wasn’t much to see, and then … there it was! A living horse conch. The bright orange snail was hanging out of the shell and I could see the operculum – the hard part that covers the opening when the conch goes back into it’s shell.

Click on the photos and they will enlarge.

Low tide is the best time to search for interesting sea life, but on Three Sisters there wasn’t much. Also the ground was very muddy and slippery. Water temp is only 67 degrees now (January) so we don’t swim this time of year. It was sunny and warm because there wasn’t much of a breeze.

It’s not the first time I’ve come across a living horse conch out on these muddy flats. I never get tired of seeing them and admiring their beauty. This one was only around 10 inches long. They can grow to be twice this size!

The snail did not move at all as I approached, and I hoped it wasn’t dead. After I took a few photos, I gently lifted the back end and sure enough it began to move, so I left it alone.

living horse conch
Alive horse conch next to a pear whelk.

The shell of the conch was encrusted with barnacles and other things. When the tide comes back in, he will be just underwater, I suspect. This little island is off the beaten path, but there were markings of boats pulling up.

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    A Beach All Our Own

    Took a boat trip to the lagoon and explored one of the Spoil Islands.

    Early Boating Day to Beat the Thunderheads

    We’ve been getting rain like a monsoon lately but finally we got in an early day of boating to beat the thunderheads. We were on the water by ten in the morning, which is early for us. My son is not an early riser. With the chance of rain nearly always possible, we hoped to get a few hours in.

    After riding around for a bit my son dropped me at an island beach while he went across the river to fish.

    island view
    The Island

    Today the place was deserted. It was a Thursday so not surprising. I walked the beach looking for treasure in the form of seashells but found nothing – except for the one broken and partially buried shell right in front of the boat landing.

    broken knobbed whelk treasure buried in the sand
    Broken knobbed whelk shell

    Most people would probably pass on collecting this shell, but I rarely find shells this size, even if they are broken. I’ve never found a live knobbed whelk snail. In fact, knobbed whelk shells in any form are a rare find here.

    This marine snail makes a beautiful shell, and I found a stunning specimen a while ago just off this very island, in roughly the same place. It contained a big hermit crab, but I got some photos before putting it back into the water. That shell was tan in color with a shiny exterior. It is still one of my favorite finds.

    The knobbed whelk is a hefty shell so this one had done a lot of rolling around in the water to break it up or possibly it was broken by a boat. Boats often pull up to this island. There was absolutely no place for a hermit crab to hide inside. I brought it home and cleaned it up.

    The tide was going out but the water was very murky and brown. It was not at all inviting. The beach held no other treasures so I texted my son and he came back to pick me up and we moved on.

    Encrusted Horse Conch

    We headed into a little bay area that has a lot of shallow spots. I was looking for a place to get out and dip into the 83 degree water to cool off a bit. We pulled up to this little beach area.

    Little beach
    Little beach where I found the horse conch shell

    I hopped off the boat here only to see a nice size, yet juvenile, horse conch shell moving along the bottom. I t had a hermit crab inside, but I got some photos of this beauty. The sand was very soft and sucked at my feet, so not a good place to take a dip. We moved on into Oyster Bay.

    Into the Bay

    Heading a little further into the backwaters there is a big shallow area. Here the water was only a foot or two deep. We were able to get out and float while keeping hold of the boat so it didn’t drift away. As I mentioned the water was pretty brown and I mostly worry about stingrays.

    shallow area where we got out to swim

    I think this area of the lagoon is called Oyster Bay because it is very shallow with lots of oyster beds. Oyster shells are very sharp and can harm boats. It’s also easy to get a fishing line caught on the shells, so we don’t go in here much. I did find a huge, living horse conch in this area one time.

    We’d been keeping an eye on the sky all day because the line of clouds over land and over the ocean could build and move in our direction.

    Keeping an Eye on The Clouds

    We made it in before the storm reached us, but you never know. Florida storms can have lots of lightning so we don’t take any chances. We had a good four hours out on the water, which was nice.