See a Living Fighting Conch Mollusk

At an island beach near the Ponce Inlet, on the central East coast of Florida, I discovered two of my favorite shells in shallow water. This is an area without many people (at least not when we visited) and whenever we visit I find some cool things. This day was no exception when I saw an Olive shell next to a Fighting Conch.

Olive and fighting conch beneath the water
Olive and Fighting Conch

Olive shells are too tightly wound for hermit crabs to inhabit, so if it was empty I could collect it. I reached down and rolled it and knew right away it was living. You can see the snail in the photo below.

The Fighting Conch was also alive and I saw the orange body as soon as I picked it up.

living fighting conch mollusk

Fighting conch shells can be beautiful colors having purple and maroon in the shell. This one was more brown and looks a bit broken along the edge. Both the Lettered Olive and Fighting Conch are easier to find on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Here on the eastern side I seldom come across them.

living fighting conch mollusk
Wow, beautiful color!

The Florida Fighting Conch (Strombus alatus) has a thick shell. Once I picked this one up he began to reach for the sand and came right out of the shell for me to see! I took quick photos and put him back so as not to stress him out.

After looking around online, those two thin appendages are its eyes. As for the rest, I’m not sure. Isn’t that orange color gorgeous? The horse conch is also bright orange.

living fighting conch mollusk
Living Florida fighting conch

The reason you won’t find nice shells like this on the ocean beach is that the mollusks like to live in calmer water where they have a food supply of algae and detritus.

In the same area I also found a living crown conch and watched as it crawled across the sand using it’s whitish foot.

Pink Crown Conch At The Hermit Crab Party

Florida sea life gathering of hermit crabs in colorful seashells out in the wild.

Finally, we got out on the boat to do some sight-seeing, beach-combing, and fishing. Our travels took us south toward Mosquito Lagoon, where we spotted many manatees. We did some island hopping and ended up on a sandy beach just off the ICW. This is where I came across the hermit crab party. A gathering of pretty shells were crawling all over a little rock in shallow water near the beach.

As I strolled along the beach, I wished I had carried the camera with me. When I don’t have it, I see amazing things, of course!

As I was nearly ready to turn back, I saw this cluster of shells up on a rock (probably coquina rock) and it appeared that the hermit crabs were fighting over a shark’s eye shell which was on the very top of the rock.

By the time I went and got the camera and came back, the shark’s eye shell was nowhere to be seen. But a gorgeous pink crown conch caught my eye.

Usually the crown conch has brownish stripes, but this one had stripes of pink and lavender!  I have not touched up my photo below.  That is the real color of the shells.  What a treat to find such a beauty….!  I did not collect it because it was home to a crab.

I liked this photo so much that I made it into a square poster, which is for sale in my Zazzle store.

tropical seashells in the wild
Group of shells (with hermit crabs inside)

There are 5 seashells in my photo; 2 pear whelks, 2 crown conchs, and a big tulip shell underwater. Wish I’d taken a photo of that big shell, but there was a hermit crab in it so I didn’t want to mess with it.

I didn’t touch the “rock” but I assume it is a chunk of coquina covered in seaweed or sea grass, and the usual slime.  You can see the barnacles on top as well.

The water was warm – too warm. The idea is to cool off on a hot Florida day, but dunking into the river is like sitting in a lukewarm bathtub. The sea water temperature was 85 degrees.

I always wish I had taken more photos, but keeping the iPhone out is dangerous around the water, and the baking sun isn’t good for it either.  And did I mention that it was hot?!

Hermit crab gathering

We caught some fish too, but then the clouds moved in and built into big thunderheads, so we had to go home.

boat river clouds
Clouds building over the land means thunderstorms are coming


Real Live Lightning Whelk Mollusk

A living lightning whelk with a pretty shell gave me some nice photos to take home.

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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