Knobbed Whelk

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Knobbed Whelk

Busycon carica

 

Range/Geographical Distribution: Along the Atlantic coast from Cape Cod to middle Florida.

Habitat: Shallow waters including bays, beaches, and estuaries.

Description: The outer shell is gray/white to tan with some dark brown streaks and the inner shell is yellow, orange, or red.  The darkly colored soft body comprises the head, the visceral mass, and the foot (which is small). 

Size: Can reach 10 inches in length.

Food: Oysters, clams, and other marine bivalves.

Breeding:  Mate in the fall and females lay yellow, parchment-like strings of egg cases in deep water, anchoring one end in the sand. The string consists of up to 40 pouches, attached by a common heavy central cord. Each pouch may contain up to 100 fertilized eggs in a jelly-like material. The embryos are slow developing; the 1/8″ long hatchlings begin crawling out of the pouches the following year in late spring.

Predators: Sea turtles and blue crabs.

Conservation Status:  No legal status.

Interesting Facts:  Whelks are protandric hermaphrodites, which means they are initially males and then change into females as they age. The shell of the knobbed whelk can be made into a natural bugle by cutting off the tip of the spire to form a mouthpiece.

On the Coast:  The knobbed whelk is the state shell of Georgia and is common along the coast.

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