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Central and South Florida Gastropod Seashell Identification Guide: Tulip Snails

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

Tulip Snails

(Family) Fasciolariidae

Distinguishing Characteristics: The Tulip snails have a reddish shell with a long, wide siphonal canal and an elongated spire.

Habitat: These snails prefer to live on sandy or muddy bottoms from shallow water to depths of 150 feet.

Diet: The tulip snails are aggressive carnivores, preferring molluscs like clams and other snails.

Scientific Name:  Triplofusus papillosus

Common Name:  Florida Horse Conch

Distinguishing Characteristics:  Very large shell with a bright orange interior.  Salmon exterior often covered with a brown outer covering (periostracum) that may have flaked off.  Pronounced rough and knobby whorls.  Maximum size 24 inches.

Interesting Facts:  The Florida Horse Conch is one of the largest gastropods in the world.  Its shell was used by Native and Mesoamerican cultures to make tools and trumpets.  This species is the official shell of Florida, adopted in 1969.  Read more about it here.

Scientific Name:  Fasciolaria tulipa

Common Name:  True Tulip

Distinguishing Characteristics:  Green, brown, and rarely reddish blotches pattern the white shell.  Several thin lines spiral parallel to the whorls of the shell; these lines are often interrupted.  Maximum size 10 inches.

Interesting Facts:  The True Tulip is a predator of the Queen Conch, Lobatus gigas.

Scientific Name:  Cinctura hunteria

Common Name:  Branham's Tulip

Distinguishing Characteristics:  Pale tan shell with little blotching.  Several thick brown/red lines spiral uninterrupted parallel to the whorls of the shell.  The spiral lines extend into the siphonal canal.  Maximum size 4.5 inches.

Scientific Name:  Cinctura lilium

Common Name:  Banded Tulip

Distinguishing Characteristics:  Reddish or rarely bluish blotches pattern the tan shell.  Several thick lines spiral parallel to the whorls of the shell; they are uninterrupted and are more pronounced than in the True Tulip.  The spiral lines do not typically extend onto the siphonal canal.  Maximum size 3-4 inches.

Interesting Facts:  Though this is a commonly found shell, very little is known about the specifics of the Banded Tulip's diet.

Triplofusus papillosus

Florida Horse Conch

Fasciolaria tulipa

True Tulip

Cinctura hunteria

Branham's Tulip

Cinctura lilium

Banded Tulip