Lightning whelk

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Lightning whelk
Three views of one shell of Busycon contrarium with operculum
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Mollusca
Class: Gastropoda
(unranked): clade Caenogastropoda
clade Hypsogastropoda
clade Neogastropoda
Superfamily: Buccinoidea
Family: Buccinidae
Subfamily: Busyconinae
Tribe: Busyconini
Genus: Busycon
Species: B. contrarium
Binomial name
Busycon contrarium
(Linnaeus, 1758.)
Synonyms

Busycon sinistrum

The lightning whelk, scientific name Busycon contrarium, is an edible species of very large predatory sea snail or whelk, a marine gastropod mollusc in the family Buccinidae, the busycon whelks. This species has a left-handed or sinistral shell. It eats mostly bivalves.

There is some confusion about the correct scientific name for this species, which has been called Busycon sinistrum and Busycon contrarium, and has also been confused with Busycon perversum.

Distribution[edit]

Range of Busycon contrarium

This species is native to southeastern North America, south to Florida and the Gulf states.

Habitat[edit]

Lightning whelks can be found in the sandy or muddy substrate of shallow embayments.

Life habits[edit]

This whelk species feed primarily on marine bivalves, ingesting their soft parts using its proboscis.

Busycon contrarium and B. carica[edit]

This species shares many characteristics with another species, the knobbed whelk Busycon carica, but there are some important differences:

  • Lightning whelks are sinistral in coiling, whereas knobbed whelks are dextral
  • Lightning whelks have a lower spire than the knobbed whelk
  • The knobs of the lightning whelk are usually less well-developed than those of the knobbed whelk
  • Lightning whelks are diurnal, while knobbed whelks are active both day and night
  • Lightning whelks prefer to stay in deeper waters than the knobbed whelks when feeding on mud flats
Live lightning whelk on the beach at Core Banks, North Carolina
Abapertural view of a shell of Busycon contrarium
Busycon contrarium egg cases.
A long string of egg cases also known as a "mermaid's necklace" on display in a museum

Human use[edit]

For thousands of years Native Americans used these animals as food, and used their shells for tools, ornaments, containers and to make jewelry, i.e. shell gorgets.[1] They may have believed the sinistral nature of the lightning whelk shell made it a sacred object.

The lightning whelk is the State Shell of Texas.

References[edit]

  • Marquardt, W.M. 1992 Shell Artifacts from the Caloosahatchee Area. In Culture and Environment in the Domain of the Calusa, edited by W. H. Marquardt, pp. 191-228. Institute of Archaeology and Paleoenvironmental Studies, Monograph 1. University of Florida, Gainesville.
  • Paine, Robert T. 1962 Ecological Diversification in Sympatric Gastropods of the Genus Busycon. Evolution 16(4):515-523.
  • Pulley, T.E. 1959 Busycon perversum (Linné) and some related species. Rice Institute Pamphlet, 46:70-89.
  • Wise, J.B., G. Harasewych, & R. Dillon. 2004. Population divergence in the sinistral Busycon whelks of North America, with special reference to the east Florida ecotone. Marine Biology, 145:1163-1179; SMSFP Contrib.538.

External links[edit]