Tag Archives: mollusk

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, they are not very pretty while living in the wild. Usually shells are slimy and brown or green when found out in nature.

One day, while we were boating, I noticed this big shell just under the water on a sandy flat covered in about a foot of water.   The water was clear that day and the tide was going out.  I walked over to the dark spot in the water and discovered that it was a living horse conch!  I was so excited.  This was the first one I had ever seen in the wild.  My son is holding it so I could get a photo.  We immediately put it back down in the water  and left him alone.

living horse conch
Live Horse Conch – approximately 14 inches long

A little later in the day we saw another one, just like this one. The water was clear and the tide was going out, which is a good time to see these living monster mollusks. Read my post about finding this living horse conch.

Florida horse conchs (Triplofusus giganteus) live in sandy shallows, and that is exactly where we found this one.   Supposedly, they can be found all around the Florida coastline living in the sandy shallows.  I rarely see them.  Maybe it’s because the dig down into the sand… as I discovered later on.

The photo below is of a live horse conch found along the Intracoastal Waterway near Oak Hill, Florida.  The water was murky that day, as you can see.    This guy was dug down into the sand so far that I didn’t know what it was until I pulled it up – hoping for an empty shell, but expecting a piece of debris or coquina rock.  I didn’t realize that horse conchs bury themselves!  So I left him alone and got an underwater photo with the Go-Pro.

underwater horse conch mollusk
Underwater Photo of Live Horse Conch
live horse conch under water
Big living horse conch under water

Sometimes juvenile shells are hard to identify, but the long spire (top spike) on the horse conch makes it relatively easy to recognize. The little one in the photo below had no mollusk inside, just a hermit crab. It was fun to find, since horse conchs are not easy to spot where I travel – large or small.

horse conch
Tiny horse conch with hermit crab inside

A picture of a horse conch egg shell casing can be seen on this post at the “i love shelling” blog, which is written by a woman who lives on Sanibel Island. Click the link and scroll down the page. Sanibel Island is on the Gulf coast, where beautiful shells of all types are easy to find.  I do not live in such a place. The wonderful big seashell finds are few and far between over here on the East coast.

The search is one of the best parts of beach-combing.
One day I got lucky and found a big horse conch sitting on the sand in the backwaters. Nothing was inside. The shell was too large for hermit crabs, so it was something I could collect.
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The shell had a film of dark brown stuff called periostracum all over it and some hard barnacles. I chipped off the barnacles and got some of the periostracum off, but I decided it looked just fine with some of the brown left on.

florida horse conch
Ready to clean the shell

This horse conch sits on the windowsill over my kitchen sink. I love to look at it and wonder about the life of the mollusk that made it. Where did it travel and how old was it when it finally died, and how did that happen?  The large snail can eat many gastropods and bivalves.  This snail is huge.

florida horse conch shell
My big shell find – this horse conch is 10 inches long

The video is of a big horse conch eating a tulip snail and the scurrying hermit crabs who fight over the empty tulip shell.

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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.

lightning whelk shell
Living Lightning Whelk

This shell had a particularly white spire – top swirl – and there was no hermit crab inside. Honestly, I had expected to see one when I found the shell moving around on the soft sand of the river bottom.
lightning whelk mollusk shell

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Pictures of Cone Shells

cone shell
Cone Shell by gadost0 at Pixabay

The cone shell is recognizable by it’s somewhat flattened spiral / spire at the top. Some cone snails are deadly, not only to prey but to humans as well. The geographic cone snail can grow to be six inches long, and it’s venom can be fatal to humans. Ironically, some of those toxins can be used as pain-killing medications.

Here’s a bit of fun info concerning cone shells:  Puka shells are really little pieces from cone shells.  The ocean is scoured for round sections to make necklaces – if you buy a REAL puka shell necklace.  Mostly puka shell necklaces are fakes, but they are still unique.

There are over 500 types of cone snail. The photo above came from the Pixabay site and I don’t know exactly what type of shell it is, but I am guessing it’s in the cone snail family because of it’s shape.

Watch Nat Geo’s “World’s Weirdest – Killer Cone Snail” short YouTube video to see how this sea creature captures and kills it’s dinner.

Cone shells are loved by collectors as they contain beautiful colors and patterns.

Blue Seashells

blue seashells postcard
Beach Shells Postcard

I spent a lot of time picking up seashells along the Florida coastline when I was a resident there, and the blue shells are some of my favorite. The heavy bivalves are known as cockle shells and the fact that they have ridges and stripes of tan make them even more interesting.

I was taking photos for Continue reading Blue Seashells

The Pink Conch Seems at Home in the Sunshine

Pink conch shell on porch railing
Pink or Queen Conch Shell

The beautiful coloring of shells won’t last forever and especially if you put them outdoors in the sun.  I bought a couple of large pink conchs about 20 years ago and I’ve loved adding them to my sunny porch railing in summer.  Lately I’ve noticed that they are looking more faded and not quite so pink and it’s because of the sun.

Sunshine is not as strong up here in the northeastern U.S., where I now live, as it is in Florida, but it will still fade the color of a pretty shell.  I love to put them outside as that is where they seem to belong, but I realize that my pink conch may end up white one day!

If your starfish or sand dollars need brightening, just set them out in the sun for a while.  They are much more brittle than a sea shell and be sure to bring them in when it rains because water will make them soft sometimes.