The Beautiful Florida Fighting Conch

A post, with pictures, about the Florida Fighting Conch seashell.

shallow ocean water shoreline

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 Indian River.  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.

Look at the beautiful colors on the shell!  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 offer a free, downloadable coloring page of the Florida Fighting Conch.

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.

Seashell Identification Charts For Florida Shellers

I visit the “i love shelling” blog from time to time to see what vacationers to Sanibel Island, and the writer herself, have been finding along the Gulf Coast beach.

On one visit I found a chart for sale to identify shells.  But now the link no longer works… so…..

So, instead I will direct you to her page about identifying seashells common to the area.

I also have a page about Collecting Seashells and the types of shells you may find.

Seashell Identification – Is This a Wentletrap?

Spiral seashell
Is this a Wentletrap?

I have a long, spiral shell with golden brown markings that I found along the Florida coastline. I’m not sure if it was found on the Gulf coast or on the beaches south of Daytona. I honestly don’t remember where most of my sea treasures came from, but we headed to the east coast beaches of New Smyrna and Bethune to swim, surf and boogie board throughout the summer where we’d pick up whatever appealed to us and bring the best treasures home.

I’ve also visited Sanibel Island a few times and of course found many interesting shells there as well. This one is still a bit of a mystery to me. My guide book doesn’t have a picture like it and I can’t seem to find it at the online sites either.

My best guess is that this shell is some sort of a Wentletrap. However, Wentletraps have vertical ridges along each curl of the shell and this one doesn’t so that leaves me wondering.

It’s 2 1/2 inches long as you can see in my photo, which is just about the size of Mitchell’s Wentletrap.
If you know what it is, I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below.

For now I’ll refer to it as a wentletrap for lack of a better name.

UPDATE: flandrumhill suggested that it is a Boring Turret Shell and I think she is correct.

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