Tag Archives: seashell identification

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 killed to bring that meal to you.

The Queen, or Pink, Conch is a threatened species due to over-harvesting. For this same reason I do not buy seashells from gift shops or shell shops. When I am walking the beach, or visiting these islands out on the river, I only collect empty seashells.


Beach-combing Again in Florida

shells found at beach
Sea Treasures

As a celebration of my moving back to Florida recently, we went to the beach yesterday! How sweet is was to float in the warm ocean water again. And of course I had to search for seashells. The central east coast is not known for it’s abundance of seashells, but I did find a few to take home with me.

After the move, from the northeast to the south, most of my things are in storage – including my old seashell collection. That means I have to begin a new one! So here I go – beginning with a piece of a large sand dollar and a shiny Sawtooth pen shell.

I also found many arks, which are able to survive the rough surf because of their thick shells. In fact I think the ark is the most often found bivalve on the east coast beach I visit. Everything I found yesterday was a bivalve (shells with two halves), with the exception of the piece of sand dollar.

Now that I am able to go out and collect seashells much more frequently, I will study them closer and try to determine exactly what I have. Many types of shells look very similar, yet have different names.

Today I learned that the Incongruous ark (Anadara brasiliana) can be recognized by the dashes that appear across each section of their ribs.

Incongruous ark shells
Incongruous ark shells

As you can see (hopefully) in my photo above, the ribs running along the shell are not smooth, but bumpy.

To identify seashells, sometimes a close inspection is needed. At first glance, most of the shells I found looked all the same. A good identification book will show pictures from the top and bottom of the shell and give a description about how to tell shells apart.

It helps to know seashell identification terminology too. Words like “umbo”, “teeth”, “apex” and other anatomy of a mollusk.

By the way, I managed to find a couple of Common jingle shells yesterday also! That was exciting.

Seashell Identification Charts For Florida Shellers

seashell identification chart
“i love shelling” Blog’s Brilliant Idea

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.
My latest visit turned up a new product. It’s a waterproof seashell identification guide sheet with fabulous shell pictures with their names. Take it along on your next trip to the beach and know immediately what you have found!
I was so impressed that I contacted Pam, who writes the blog and is selling the guide, to ask permission to list it here. I figured since it’s a promo for her product she wouldn’t mind, but I like to ask. She was thrilled, and also sounded very busy. Living in a climate where the weather is fine year round tends to keep you busy.

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.

The Frog Shell

Granulate Frog Shell - Bursa granularis

The frog shell is not extremely pretty as it tends to be covered in “limy deposits”.  The St. Thomas Frog Shell (Bursa thomae) got it’s name because it was first discovered in St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. It’s a small shell, growing only to a little over an inch long.

Another frog shell – the California Frog Shell (Bursa californica) is commonly found in Baja California where it is frequently pulled up in crab and lobster traps. This species is larger and can be up to 5 inches in length.
Info taken from National Audubon Society’s Field Guide to Shells

See another photo of a frog shell – The Yellow Mouthed – here.