Posts Tagged 'whelk'

Whelk egg cases

Telling your whelk egg case strings apart, Southern New England to Mid-Atlantic division:
This is the egg case of the channeled whelk, Busycotypus canaliculatus. Note how the edges of each individual capsule comes together as if pinched, giving each capsule a sharp edge.
This is the egg case string of the knobbed whelk, Busycon carica. Note how the edge of each capsule is flattened, like a sturdy coin.

Each capsule contains 25 or more tiny baby whelks in their tiny baby shells. Here are some of the channeled whelks who didn’t make it:In the palm of my hand. Each is about 3/16ths of an inch long. Check out this earlier posting for views of the baby knobbed whelks.

O, and telling your adults apart is straight-forward:The knobbed whelk, top, has knobs on its spiral. The channeled whelk (7.25″ long), bottom, has a deep groove in its spiral. Both these shells were found at Fort Tilden in Queens (the egg cases were found on Nantucket). Color of the shell can vary: NYC-local whelks don’t have the coral pink interiors you find in Massachusetts.

The phrase “whelk egg cases” and variations thereof, turns out to be one of the most popular internet searches leading to this blog. So this one’s for you, stranger.

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Natural Object: Whelk Egg Case

You may recognize this if you live on the east coast of the U.S. south of Cape Cod: it’s a whelk egg string. Here in the NYC region, we have two types of big whelks, the channeled and the knobbed. The knobbed is the state shell of New Jersey and Georgia, should you ever be asked. (State shells?) Down south, you may also come across the lightning whelk and the pear whelk. Up north in the New England states north of Cape Cod, fugetaboutit!

The string pictured was found on Nantucket. It’s from a knobbed whelk. I grew up seeing these things on the beach, but it was not until last year that I learned that the individual cases on the string can be full of tiny whelks.
Yes, these are in the palm of my hand; the sand (which spilled out with them) is also for scale. What you see is the contents of just one of the coin-sized cases on the string. Successful whelks can grow to be 5-9 inches long.

More details here and here.

UPDATE: The search term feature of WordPress allows me to see the words and phrases that lead people to this site. “My dog ate a whelk egg case” was one. The strings look and feel pretty crunchy, but I think the dog will be OK. I used to know a dog that ate shampoo and soap and he was OK, albeit crazy.


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