This beauty is the Hawk-wing Conch, officially, Strombus raninus.
photos copyright 2009
This particular one, around 3” high (tip to tip), was an empty shell I found wedged in some rocks in Key West, Florida. This shell is a lesser representation of another Hawk-wing that was responsible for the only moment in my life that I experienced utter joy followed by utter disappointment in less than 10 seconds.
I was snorkeling over a seagrass bed where these guys like to hang out and found a beautiful, full-grown (about 5”) Hawk-wing Conch shell, fabulously pink inside its highly flared outer lip. Oh! Heart palpitations! And then I saw down inside the aperture (shell opening) the operculum pulling in, the door closing, so to speak, on the living snail inside its shell. Dang!!!! Anyway, I had to return it to the water. I know many regard removing an animal that is basically just a slug from a great shell specimen as no big deal but I look at it this way...
You’re at home in your pretty little house and someone knocks on the door and you answer it and there’s some huge, scary guy who says “Gimme your house!” And you say, “No way, dude, I live here.” And he says, “I don’t care, I want it, it’s exactly what I’ve been looking for and if I have to I’ll remove you by force.” And you say, “Well, you’re gonna have to, bubba, cause I’m really attached to my house.” And then he kills you and takes your house! Does that seem right? No, it does not! He’s just a big, greedy jerk who needs to go find a house that nobody’s living in! I’m just saying…
Anyway, back to the Hawk-wing shell. True conchs are in the family Strombidae. Here is one more photo showing the "stromboid" notch, characteristic of all adult conch species. It is the rounded indentation on the lower, outer lip (not the canal opening on the very end of the shell).
photo copyright 2009
Tune in tomorrow to hear about the Sacrificial Clam in Tank Diaries.