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.

New ‘marine life encyclopedia’ launched

I think there might be another great bookmark to add to your ocean facts files! Please spend some time reviewing this great new resource, a marine life encyclopedia, compiled by Oceana. Over 500 creatures, places, and concepts can be explored. The pictures are bright and colorful and the information is up-to-date and easy to digest. It seems fantastic if you want a quick answer to a question.

Even if you think you know all the answers, test yourself with this Ocean IQ quiz!

The content on the marine life encyclopedia site has been licensed to Dorling Kindersley, one of the world’s leading educational publishers.

It’s as easy as A, B, Sea: Q for Queen Conch

Strombus gigas = Eustrombus gigas

Image via Wikipedia

Queen conch (Strombus gigas) is a marine snail or gastropod. If you’ve ever eaten conch fritters you understand why conch is a staple food source in the Caribbean and Florida.

The shell of a queen conch thickens and grows as it ages. They get to be about 3-5 years of age and grow up to 12 inches long.

Learn more about the queen conch here.

It’s as easy as A, B, Sea: L for Limpet

Limpets are small, flattened snails with a conical shell that live on rocks in the intertidal zone. They trap water beneath their shell and use it to survive from high tide to low tide.

Image (c) wordsmith.org

What’s the difference between a conch and a whelk?

Good rule of thumb would be that whelks are found in temperate water and conchs are found in more tropical waters. Also, conchs have eyeballs, while whelks have eyespots. If you’re lucky enough to catch them while feasting, whelks are carnivores and conchs are herbivores. Also, their body colors are different. Conchs tend to be green or gray while whelks are tan or whitish (but can be other colors).

What makes the swirly tracks at the ocean edge?

What I think you are referring to is the trail of a moon snail, or sometimes called a sand snail. This univalve animal has a cinnamon bun swirled shell. The shell is extremely thick to protect itself from the ocean and other animals that may try to eat it.

If you try to pick it up – the animal will resist because of its suction like muscled foot planted in the sand. The snail has that muscled foot which makes it glide quickly through the sand. If you do pick it up and feel resistance – it is ok, the animal will “close its door” – or operculum – and hold in water and nutrients. And, of course, you will put it back right where you found it? Now, it you see some colored legs poking out – that’s a hermit crab. They may pinch – so put it back – quickly. Hermit crabs make their homes out of shells that are no longer homes to other animals…

Lastly, this is type of snail is the one that has the radula which drills into clam shells.

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What are those yellow looking things that look like a floppy spinal cord?

The strand of half dollar sized pods is an egg case. Actually each pod has about twenty tiny animals in each pod.knobbed_whelk_with_egg_-case_100_2886

The tiny animal that will grow from this egg case is the knobbed whelk. This is basically a northeast version of a conch (pronounced conk). If you hold the tiny discs up to the sunlight you can see the tiny versions of the whelk developing.

The whelk is a mollusk (like clams and oysters) but only has one shell. This shell grows with the whelk as it gets older – as opposed to the hermit crab which moves out as it gets bigger.

Also, if you hold the whelk shell up to your ear you can hear the ocean. Lastly, do not hold up a whelk shell to your ear if it has a tough protective “door” covering its opening. That’s the mantle and means that an animal inhabits the shell. Please place it right back where you found it.

Image (c) Jo O’Keefe.


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