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Central and South Florida Gastropod Seashell Identification Guide: Murex Snails

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

Murex Snails

(Family) Muricidae

Distinguishing Characteristics: The Murexes can have many different forms of ornamentation.  Their shells are often very strong and covered with spines, making them popular collectors items.

Habitat:  These snails may be found on rocky or sandy bottoms in near shore waters.

Diet:  Most members of this family feed on bivalves by rasping a hole through the clam or oyster's shell, giving the common name of some species Oyster Drill.  They can also prey on other molluscs or scavenge on carrion.

Interesting Facts:  Most Murexes all possess a special gland that can be processed to make a vibrant purple dye greatly valued by ancient Mediterranean cultures.  Learn more about Tyrian Purple here.

Scientific Name:  Hexaplex fulvescens

Common Name:  Giant Atlantic Murex

Distinguishing Characteristics:  A very large, heavy shell with short, stout spines.  May have 6-10 rows of spines.  Aperture oval.  Maximum size around 9 inches.

Interesting Facts:  Also known as the Giant Eastern Murex or Tawny Murex.

Scientific Name:  Phyllonotus pomum

Common Name:  Apple Murex

Distinguishing Characteristics:  Wall of inner lip yellow, tan, or orange, with a brown spot at the top of the aperture.  Aperture oval to round.  Outer lip of aperture colored with three brown spots.  Spines reduced; no long spines.  Maximum size around 5 inches.

Scientific Name:  Stramonita floridana

Common Name:  Florida Rock Snail

Distinguishing Characteristics:  Solid shell with faint vertical growth lines.  Aperture possesses a scalloped, grooved interior surface to the outer lip.  Interior of aperture often a creamy orange.  Maximum size 3 inches.

Scientific Name:  Vokesimurex donmoorei

Common Name:  Cabrit's Murex

Distinguishing Characteristics:  Three ridges (varices) protrude from the shell every 120 degrees.  Varices covered with spines that may be worn away from wave action.  Long siphonal canal.  Maximum size 2.5 inches.

Scientific Name:  Chicoreus florifer

Common Name:  Lace Murex

Distinguishing Characteristics:  Aperture small, oval to round.  Vertical ridges (varices) covered with fragile spines that may be worn away by wave action.  Maximum size 2 inches.

Giant Atlantic Murex

Apple Murex

Florida Rock Snail

Cabrit's Murex

Lace Murex