About the Little Pear Whelk Seashell

Photos and info about the Pear whelk, or Fig whelk, seashell which I find regularly when out on the boat.

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.

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.

About the Knobbed Whelk Seashell and Mollusk

Found a beautiful knobbed whelk with a hermit crab inside, but got some photos.

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”

About Olive Shells You May Find in Florida

Olive shells are easy to identify and can have a beautiful shiny surface.

Olive shells are easy to identify. They are long and smooth measuring from tiny to 2.7 inches in length.  The shell on the right in my photo below is nearly as large as they get.  Their spire (top swirl) is small and the opening (aperture) is a slit all along the side of the shell.

The Lettered Olive (Olive sayana) is the one I am showing in my photographs on this page. It is the largest of the olives.  The other types are the Netted Olive (Oliva reticularis) and the Variable Dwarf Olive (Olivella utica).  The Netted olive is found in the southeastern part of Florida only.

My shells were collected (empty – nothing living inside) from Florida beaches.  Most of my olives are dull, worn and broken, but pretty ones can be collected from the Gulf beaches where the lack of waves tends to preserve the beauty of seashells (see my last photo on this page).

lettered olive shells
Olive shells, found 12.15.17 along Indian River Lagoon in water at low tide

Other Types of Olive Shell

The Netted Olive (Olive reticularis) is smaller and is named for it’s net-like markings.  It is more often found in the Caribbean or southeastern area of Florida.  See a photo here at the Marine Species Identification site.

There is also a small seashell called the Variable dwarf olive (Olivella mutica) which is less than an inch in length.  To my knowledge I have never seen one.  But you can see it on the Conchology Inc. page.

The Shells I Have Found

Where I live, on Florida’s east central coast, I rarely see the olive shell, so when I come across one, it’s a big deal to me!

The one below was alive, and found just above the water line at Ponce Inlet.  You can see the mollusk just peeking out in the photo on the right.  The shell was a beautiful dark purple-brown color. I took some photos and put this one back.

Living shells or recently abandoned ones will have the best color.  Once they are rolled with the waves, continuously scratched by the sand, or washed ashore to sit in the hot sun, their color will fade and the shells can break.

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Lettered Olives – typical of what I find

Because finding an olive in any form is fairly rare where I live, I collect all of them, except the ones being used by the owner! Then, I take a photo and let it be.  Broken and old worn shells have their own appeal because they have a history. I always wonder what broke the shell? How did the snail die? How old is this shell and where has it been?

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Worn and broken olive shell

Olive shells can be found along southern US coasts including all around the state of Florida.  It is the state shell of South Carolina where this shell is prolific.

Recently I was visiting an island beach while out boating and as I walked the shore I saw these two beauties only a few feet apart.  The tide was low and still going out and there they were.

Yes, they are worn and in less than perfect shape, but finding them made me so happy!  (Also see them next to the tape measure in my first photo on this page.)  That photo was taken after I cleaned them.  (See my post on how to clean seashells.)

olive shells and crown conch
Shallow Water Find – Olives and a Crown Conch

These shells don’t appeal to hermit crabs because of their shape – not enough space for the crab.  Because of this, it is one of the few gastropods I can collect without worrying about having a crab tucked down inside.  Those pesky critters can duck inside a shell and hide really well.

Shark’s Eye and Olive Shell found August 2022 – put the Shark’s eye back as it had a hermit crab inside.

The shape of the olive shell most resembles that of a cone shell, but cones are shaped more like their namesake.  The olive is nearly the same width from top to bottom.  The best place to collect a cone shell is on the southwest side of Florida, on and near Sanibel Island, which is where I found the pretty Olive Shells in my photo below.

cone shells
Olive Shells from Sanibel Island

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