Sunday, January 28, 2007

Florida's State Shell, The Florida Horse Conch

I imagine every state may have a "state tree", but not all have a state shell. The Florida Horse Conch is our state shell. This is the largest snail in the Americas and very deserving of special recognition. Horse conchs are predators as are most conchs and whelks. Imagine slow motion life or death chases across the mudflats as the horse conch pursues lightning whelks and crown conchs. It's happening out in the Gulf as I type. As Pablo often says, "I wish I were there right now."

The picture above shows two of my personal specimens that I use as teaching aids at school. The "baby" shows more of the usual dark coloration that you see on a live horse conch. It is also intact, whereas the larger specimen is missing the point. (Are you?) ... heehee.

The larger shell is ... well, ancient. It shows clear evidence of having been worked into a shell trumpet by the first immigrants to Florida. Immigrants began arriving in Florida at least 8,000 years ago (I think recent evidence points to about 11,000 years ago actually). The shell trumpet produces a clear, strong sound when blown properly.
The large shell was given to me decades ago when I first moved to this area of Florida. It came "from some island out by Cedar Key". Those islands were heavily used by Florida's first immigrants and in some places they left behind shell middens that rise above the surrounding flat marshlands. I like using this teaching aid because it allows me to tie together the nature and the culture of Florida.
I can imagine some ancient Floridian blowing this trumpet, the sound echoing across marsh and salty creeks, and in the distance, an answering shell horn calls.
"Shellular phone service provided by Allshell"
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Rurality said...

Our state shell is prettier than your state shell, neener, neener!

Johnstone's Junonia (Scaphella junonia johnstoneae)

But I suppose yours is bigger.

Betsy said...

Beautiful junonia! Beautifaul conch!

Our state shell is the Scotch Bonnet.

LauraHinNJ said...

Knobbed whelk!

Had to look that one up.

Floridacracker said...

Hmmmmm...Okay ladies, but my state shell could (and does) eat your state shells.
neener,neener, neener!

That's a beauty!

I love Scotch Bonnets. Once while diving, I collected a handfull of empty bonnets outside an octopus den.

We have knobbed whelks too and they get pretty big.

threecollie said...

Bay scallop here in the Empire State

vicki said...

I realize we've moved on from shells but Abby was just looking over your page and she reminded me that Daniel plays the Florida State shell in his band- when he's not playing bari, tenor, alto, bass saxophones or contra-alto clarinet- he plays the conch. :-)

Floridacracker said...

I never would have guessed that one!

You have some amazing kids Vicki.