Tag Archives: live

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.

cleaning horse conch

About The Florida Horse Conch Mollusk and Seashell

The horse conch is the Florida state shell. It is one of the largest shells to be found around the coastline and is the largest snail in North America. The horse conch is one of the spindle shells. They are thick and elongated. It looks like someone stretched the shell from both ends. It can grow to be nearly 2 feet in length!

hermit crab inside horse conch shell
Small horse conch with hermit crab inside

The small horse conchs I’ve come across have all had hermit crabs inside.  As can be seen in my photo, Continue reading About The Florida Horse Conch Mollusk and Seashell

Fighting conch shell with mollusk inside

The Beautiful Florida Fighting Conch

shallow ocean water shoreline
This type of mollusk likes calm, shallow water with a sandy bottom.

One of my favorite shells to see up close is the Fighting Conch, or the Florida Fighting Conch (Strombus alatus) as it’s known.  It is in the family Strombidae.

The Fighting Conch can be found on all Florida shorelines, but they prefer sandy, shallow water where wave action is minimal.   That’s exactly the type of place I discovered this one.

Before I came across this living mollusk, I had collected an empty fighting conch shell while visiting Sanibel Island.    On the Gulf coast, this shell is more common than where I am on the East coast.

So what is a conch shell? (Pronounced “konk”) By definition it is a large, spiral-shaped seashell.  It is big, but thicker and heavier than other gastropods, like the whelks.   The conch is the living creature inside which is sometimes harvested to eat.  Conch is on the menu in many tropical based restaurants, and the meat can be from any large gastropod shell.

I’ve also come across a broken and worn Fighting Conch shell with a hermit crab inside. This happened while exploring another similar type of island.

broken fighting conch
Broken Fighting Conch Shell with Hermit Crab Inside

Recently, I was lucky enough to come across this living Fighting Conch while walking the beach of an island in the Florida Intracoastal Waterway.  I didn’t think to measure it, but I’d estimate it’s length to be around 4 inches, and they don’t get much bigger, according to my seashell reference book.

Fighting conch shell with mollusk inside
The Beautiful Fighting Conch – this one is alive.

The chunky, wide-bodied shell, with a more compact spire, is a giveaway as to the name of this one.   It is known to “fight” or jump at other shells that could be a danger to it, hence the “fighting” name.

It also has some beautiful coloring.  From the dark purple with orange edges underneath at the aperture, to the light purple on top (it’s spire), even though this one has some green algae and a few barnacles, it was a lovely sight to behold.  I couldn’t help but wonder how beautiful it would have been all cleaned up.

florida fighting conch and mollusk
Living Florida Fighting Conch – view of the mollusk inside

I saw this shell up on the sand at an island out on the Indian River. I picked it up hoping it was empty so I could take it home, but found a living conch inside.   A fun surprise (at least it wasn’t a hermit crab!)

I took it to the boat to show my son – how often do you find something so awesome?  I got my iPhone to take these pictures, and then left it in the shallow water which is it’s home.

fighting conch seashell

My video of this living conch shell.  Somehow it ended up in Slow-motion (I am not tech savvy), which shows the sea water slowly coming in around the shell.

If you are ever tempted to try “conch” when out to eat at a Florida restaurant, this is the type of thing you are eating. The living shells are collected and the animal is pulled out and cooked.

I’ve found other living mollusks while out boating.  This big horse conch was pretty cool, and even a little pear whelk with the mollusk inside.

The Pink conch (or Queen conch) is a threatened species due to over-harvesting. For this same reason I no longer buy seashells from gift shops or shell shops. When I am walking the beach, or visiting these islands out on the river, I always only collect empty seashells.

Live horse conch in ocean water

Found a Big Living Horse Conch, Exciting!

While out on the boat just the other day we were fishing the backwaters north of Mosquito Lagoon. It was low tide and my son wanted to fish in Oyster Bay because the oyster mounds would be easy to see and navigate.

As we entered the bay area a large area of very shallow water allowed us to see the sand through the clear, running water. We all noticed, what looked like, a large shell just beneath the surface. I know that the horse conch can grow to be around 2 feet long, and certain other whelks can also be quite large. So we trolled over to the edge of the sandy island and hopped into the water to investigate.

The elongated shape of the shell told me it was a horse conch, and with just a little of the orange part (the mollusk’s body) showing, I knew I had found a living horse conch! My son held the heavy shell for a moment so I could get this photo and we put it right back down onto the sand.  I couldn’t measure it, but I am guessing it was around 14 inches long.

Here you can see the operculum (round hard disk) which closes the mollusk in, and his bright orange body.  It’s such an amazing creature!  They like sand, and this area is nothing but sand, so I’m sure he’s very happy traversing the inland waterways.

living horse conch
Live Horse Conch

It’s not unusual to find little crown shells, lightning whelks and other pretty shells “walking” around on these sand bars. They are never living mollusks, only empty shells taken over by the hermit crabs. So, finding this big living mollusk was an exciting experience for me.

That find alone made my day, but later on we found another living horse conch on the same type of sand bar! It was about the same size as the first, and was up out of the water and encrusted with barnacles.  I didn’t touch the second one, or take a picture, but I could see his orange body down in the mud.  (I am always afraid I will drop my cell phone while walking through the squishy muddy, and sometimes slippery, bottom.) Plus, I already had my photos.

I have a horse conch seashell which I found empty on one of these types of islands.  Perhaps empty horse conchs are too large for hermit crabs to occupy. (But they DO occupy every other type of gastropod out there!)

According to my seashell reference book, Florida’s Living Beaches, the Florida horse conch is “relatively uncommon” along the east coast.  I’ve never seen one along the shore or at the beach, and I’ve only found 3 in my travels in the backwaters.  They are however, “relatively common” on the southern west coast of Florida, where I imagine beautiful large and juvenile empty shells wash up on the beach.  Over here where I live, it takes a bit more searching to find such a wonder.

living horse conch in natural habitat
Where the Horse Conch Lives

We left him on his sandy island, awaiting the return of the tide, and trolled off to try and catch some fish.