Well, well, ‘whelk’ what do you know?

It’s no surprise why my home state of New Jersey has been on my mind lately. Using my enthusiasm for nostalgia, I decided to investigate little known facts about the state. Today I am eager to share some at best ‘compelling’, but possibly ‘useless’ knowledge on the New Jersey’s state shell, the knobbed whelk.

Image (c) by Charles Tilford on Flickr: noncommercial use permitted with attribution / share alike.

Image (c) by Charles Tilford on Flickr:
noncommercial use permitted with attribution / share alike.

  1. Governor Christine Todd Whitman declared the knobbed whelk (Busycon carica) the state shell on April 13, 1995.
  2. In addition to being the state shell of New Jersey, the knobbed whelk is also the state shell of Georgia.
  3. The shell of the knobbed whelk is coiled and pear-like and appears anywhere from yellow to gray in adults with purple and browns tints in juveniles. Its inside is typically pink to white and iridescent.
  4. The animal that lives inside the shell is a one-footed member of the sea-snail family (specifically the family, Melongenidae).
  5. Knobbed whelks are found off the east coast of the U.S. from Massachusetts to northern Florida.
  6. The meat of the whelk (and that of the conch) is known as scungilli.
  7. Whelks have a large pair of tentacles, each with a light-sensitive eyespot.
  8. Whelks also have a small pair of tentacles that are used for smell and touch.
  9. The U.S. exports whelks (i.e., knobbed, as well as lightning) to many areas of the world including France, Southeast Asia, Australia, and the Caribbean.
  10. Horseshoe crabs are used as bait to harvest channeled or knobbed whelks.
  11. There is a popular Korean side dish known as golbaengimuchim, which is seasoned whelks with spicy sweet and sour sauce with vegetables.
  12. Knobbed whelks can be up to 12 inches long.
  13. Knobbed whelks and lightning whelks can be distinguished by the difference in their openings. Knobbed whelks are dextral (i.e. right-handed).
  14. Knobbed whelks and lightning whelks lay strings of egg capsules.
  15. Knobbed whelks feast on clams using a radula.


  1. Most… er… whelkome and informative

  2. What a fascinating creature. You mention exporting it so now I wonder whether its fishing is sustainable.

  3. Are you sure that knobbed whelks can be up to 12 inches long? Nevertheless, these facts about the city are amazing.

  4. Some knobbed whelks have red or orange inside their shells and so they could, on rare occasion, produce a red or orange pearl!

  5. Good morning! Thank you for the comments. I did gather the information that they can be up to 12 inches from a reputable source (University of Delaware) and have linked to the source above. Also, there is only a small, but growing, fishery for them and it seems stable and sustainable at this point.

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