|Three views of one shell of Busycon perversum with operculum|
Busycon is a genus of very large edible sea snails, marine gastropod mollusks in the family Buccinidae. These snails are commonly known in the United States as whelks or Busycon whelks. Less commonly they are loosely, and somewhat misleadingly, called "conchs".
Shells of species in this genus can grow to a length of 40 cm. They all have a long siphonal canal.
The shell of individuals can sometimes vary quite widely in coloration and sculpture.
Busycon whelks are scavengers and carnivores, equipped with a proboscis tipped with a file-like radula used to bore holes through the shells of barnacles, clams, crabs, and lobsters. They have a large, muscular foot with which they hold their victims. Small sharks, gulls, crabs, and other gastropods are known to feed upon them.
The knobbed whelk, Busycon carica, is the second-largest species, growing up to 30 cm long. They have tubercles (spines) along the shoulder. They open clams with their muscular foot and insert their long proboscis to digest the flesh. The knobbed whelk is a common predator of the foreshore mudflats as far offshore as 50 m.
Strings of Busycon whelk egg capsules commonly wash ashore and desiccate, becoming brittle. These objects are sometimes called mermaid's necklaces because they resemble a large necklace strung with medallion-shaped egg pouches. Each pouch of the string contains numerous protoconchs (baby whelks), similar in appearance to adults but with fewer whorls and less sculpture.
When used for cooking in the United States, busycon whelks are sometimes called scungilli, an Italian-American adaptation of the Neapolitan sconciglio which means the meat of a (usually edible) sea snail.
The genus Busycon contains the following species:
- Busycon candelabrum Lamarck, 1816 - Splendid whelk
- Busycon carica Gmelin, 1791) - Knobbed whelk
- Busycon coarctatum (Sowerby I, 1825)
- Busycon contrarium - Lightning whelk - synonyms: Busycon perversum, Busycon sinistrum
- Busycon laeostomum Kent, 1982 - Snow whelk
- Busycon lyonsi Petuch, 1987
- Busycon pulleyi - Prickly whelk
The following species have been moved from Busycon to the genus Busycotypus
- Busycotypus canaliculatus (Linnaeus, 1758) Channeled whelk. Busycotypus canaliculatus, is slightly smaller than the knobbed whelk, and has a smooth shell with a deep square channel which is continuous on all the whorls, just below the suture of the shell.
- Busycotypus plagosus (Conrad, 1862)
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