Lightning Whelks are leftists.
I still like them even though I am a centralzigzagist.
With a shell that goes against the grain of most right spiraling snail shells, the lightning whelk is quite the contrarian, hence the scientific name, "Busycon contrarium".
These big snails are predators and will clean a saltwater aquarium of any clams who have the misfortune to be dumped in the tank with them.
|Lightning Whelk egg case|
As soon as the scent of the food reaches them, they erupt from the gravel and begin seeking it out.
It's pretty neat to watch and a big one will shove rocks and shells around as they plow across the bottom of the tank.
These guys/gals (all are hermaphrodites) get really big ... at least 15 inches in my experience. I am sure they must be edible based on the zillions of them in some local First Floridian midden sites.
In the far distant past, their shells were used for everything from net weights, cooking vessel, scoop, scraper, garden hoe ... even I used to have one as a bird seed scoop.
These wonderful and abundant snails have been around for about 60 million years, which is pretty amazing when you think about it.
Next week, my students and I will be out on the Gulf on our annual field trip and I'm sure they will all have the opportunity to hold a live whelk in their hand and feel it creep across their palm.
... and then they too will be struck by lightning.