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Sea Life, Animals
& Exhibits

horse-conch Click/Touch photo to view enlargement.

Horse Conch

(Triplofusus giganteu)

Another common name for this snail is the Florida Horse Conch. It is the state shell of Florida. The Florida horse conch is the largest snail to be found in the American waters, sometimes reaching a length of two feet. Conchs belong to a class known as Gastropods, which make up the largest class of Mollusks. Conchs grow by increasing their swirling body while producing a protective shell. This shell protects their soft body from predators. They use a pad, or foot, that extends from their shell which allows them to drag their shell along. As they drag their shell often times their mouth and eyes can be seen coming out from the opening of the shell. In classic Mayan art, the Horse Conch is shown being utilized in many ways including as paint and ink holders for elite scribes, and also as a bugle or trumpet. In southern Florida, Native Americans, including the Calusa and Tequesta, used the horse conch to make several types of artifact. The whole shell was attached to a wooden handle and used as a hammer or woodworking tool. The body whorl was used as a drinking cup.

Habitat

Horse conchs are found from North Carolina to Florida and into Mexico. Commonly found in the sea grass beds and reefs in the Atlantic Ocean.

Diet

This snail is carnivorous and will feed on bivalves like clams and mussels as well as other snails.

Behavior

Reproduction is sexual. The female attaches capsule-like structures to rock or old shell. Each capsule contains several dozen eggs for the young snails to feed upon. The capsule contains 5-6 circular rims, and they are laid in clumps. The young emerge and are an orange color, approximately 3.5 inches in diameter.

Predators

Horse Conch predators are mainly humans that use them for their shells and for food. Other predators include octopus, they can use their suction cups to suck the conch out of its shell. Certain starfish are able to slip one of their arms into the operculum of the conch and will then force its stomach out and ingest the conch right from its shell.