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Central and South Florida Gastropod Seashell Identification Guide: Conchs

This guide should serve to teach the public how to identify local Central and South Florida gastropod seashells.


(Family) Strombidae 

Distinguishing Characteristics: Adult true conchs possess the "stromboid notch", a notch on the lower outer lip just by the siphonal canal. This allows the conch to extend an eye over the sediment.

Habitat:  True conchs prefer to shallower water, usually with sandy bottoms covered with seagrass.

Diet:  True conchs are herbivorous, grazing on seagrasses and algae.

Scientific Name:  Lobatus gigas

Common Name:  Queen Conch

Distinguishing Characteristics:  Adults posses large and heavy shells with a bright pink interior and an upwards-flaring outer lip.  Juveniles are more conical, lacking the upwards flare to the outer lip.  Maximum size around 14 inches.

Interesting Facts:  A large, beautiful shell often found for sale in tourist shops- the quintessential South Florida shell.  The shell can be converted into a blowing horn and had an important role in ancient Native and Mesoamerican cultures.  It is the emblem of the Conch Republic.  The Queen Conch is an important food source in the Caribbean but is currently overexploited.  Florida prohibits the collection of live specimens and the harvesting of their meat.  Read more here.

The scientific name was changed from Strombus gigas to Eustrombus gigas in 2007 by Petuch.  It was further revised to Lobatus gigas in 2008 by Landau, Kronenberg, and Herbert.

Scientific Name:  Lobatus raninus

Common Name:  Hawkwing Conch

Distinguishing Characteristics:  The outer lip of the aperture sweeps dramatically out and upwards, ending in a point like a wingtip, giving this species its common name.  Maximum size 4.5 inches.

Scientific Name:  Strombus alatus

Common Name:  Florida Fighting Conch

Distinguishing Characteristics:  Individuals have thick shells with blunted whorl spines and range in color from faint yellow to a deep brown.  There is a downward slope to the upper portion of the outer lip.  Maximum size 5 inches.

Interesting Facts:  Another similar species, the West Indian Fighting Conch (Strombus pugilis) is probably just a subspecies of the Florida Fighting Conch.  You can tell them apart by an upward flare to the outer lip and a darker overall color.  Both species are abundant and can be raised for the aquarium trade.  Their flesh is edible and there is potential for them as a food species.  You can read more on their mariculture potential here.

Lobatus gigas juvenile

Juvenile Queen Conch

Lobatus gigas

Queen Conch

Lobatus raninus

Hawkwing Conch

Strombus alatus

Florida Fighting Conch