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Conchs

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Queen Conch Shell / Tami Heilemann, USFWS

Queen Conch Shell

Courtesy Tami Heilemann, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Conchs are a type of sea snail, and are also a popular seafood in some areas.

The term 'conch' (pronounced "konk") is used to describe over 60 species of sea snails which have a medium- to large-sized shell. In many species, the shell is elaborate and colorful. Probably the most well-known species is the queen conch, which is the image that might come to mind of a sea shell. This shell is often sold as a souvenir, and it's said you can hear the sea if you put a conch shell to your ear.

Classification:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Mollusca
  • Class: Gastropoda

True conchs are gastropods in the Family Strombidae, which includes about 60 species (Source: Worldwide Conchology). Shells of these animals are strong and have a wide 'lip'.

The general term 'conch' is also applied to other taxonomic families, such as the Melongenidae, which include the melon and crown conchs.

Habitat and Distribution:

Conchs live in tropical waters, including the Caribbean, West Indies and Mediterranean. They live in relatively shallow waters, including reef and seagrass habitats.

Conservation and Human Uses:

Conchs are edible, and in many cases, have been over-harvested for meat and also for souvenir shells. Queen conchs are a species threatened by overharvesting, and fishing for conchs is no longer allowed in Florida waters (see NOAA queen conch site for more information on conch fishing).
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