Florida Fighting Conch Club Shell

Strombus alatus (Gmelin, 1791)

Range: North Carolina to Florida, where it is a common species on the west coast; Gulf Coast to Texas and the Yucatan; not in the West Indies or South America.

Size: 70 — 140mm (2.8 — 5.5 in)

Habitat: Sandy areas near marine grasses in shallow water.  Florida Fighting Conchs are easy to collect on sand flats or bars as they emerge out of the sand as the tide begins to return.

Family: STROMBIDAE Rafinesque, 1815 — the true conchs

Genus: Strombus

Species: alatus

Author: (Gmelin, 1791) (Gmelin is the man who gave the shell the name alatus in the year 1791)

About the Name: for many years Strombus alatus was thought to be a subspecies of Strombus pugilis. Strombus alatus is commonly known as the “Florida Fighting Conch” because of its striking movements as it moves along with its claw-like operculum and is found throughout Florida, but not in the West Indies.  Commonly, the Strombus pugilis became the “West Indian Fighting Conch” as it is endemic to the West Indies as well as southern Florida.  The most distinguishing feature is that the top of the Strombus alatus outer lip is descending, while the outer lip of Strombus pugilis flares upward.  Also, the spines on the whorls, especially the last whorl, are more developed on pugilis than on atalus.  Some specimens found at Lake Worth, Peanut Island, Florida have characteristics of both species.

Shell Description: The Strombus alatus shell is thick and highly variable in color, ranging from yellowish to chestnut-brown, often with pale spots or zigzag stripes, typically dark reddish-brown and often mottled with reddish orange.  Early whorls are convex, often angled, with axial ribs crossed by spiral cords; the axial ribs gradually become larger, more separated and knobbed at the bluntly angled shoulder.  On the last 2 whorls, knobs are stronger and more pointed and the spiral chords are more distant and obscure.  The aperture is white within and margined with purplish-brown and orange.  The parietal wall has a brown to deep chestnut glaze.  The outer lip is wing-like, finely ridged within, with a broad, deep notch at the upper end, a shallow notch at the lower end, and a broad dark violet canal at the base.  Their periostracum is thin and velvety.  Spineless and albinistic forms are known.  Juveniles are top or cone-shaped, and often have a zigzag pattern.

Strombus alatus (Gmelin, 1791)

Strombus alatus (Gmelin, 1791)