Lightning Whelk

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Project Description

Lightning Whelk

Busycon contrarium


Range/Geographical Distribution: Along the coast from New Jersey to Texas. 

Habitat: Estuarine waters in creeks and among oyster beds. 

Description: Easily recognizable by the leftward spiraling shell.  Adults are grey with a glossy white aperture; juveniles have brown/orange “lighting-bolt” stripes that fade as they grow. 

Size: Can reach 16 inches in length. 

Food: Clams and other bivalves. 

Breeding: Mate in the fall and winter; fertilization is internal. Females lay strings of thick, disk-like egg capsules, up to a yard in length and an inch and a half in diameter, anchored in the sand. Juveniles grow slowly and hatch in three to 13 months.

Predators: Sea turtles, and blue crabs.

Conservation Status:  No legal status.

Interesting Facts:  When sea water temperature are outside of the optimum range of 77-82˚F, feeding rates and crawling speeds of lightning whelks decrease.

On the Coast:  Lightning whelks are less common than other whelks along the Georgia coast but their shells can be found washed up on the beaches.

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