One of the most sought-after shells in the Gulf of Mexico is the Florida state shell, the Horse Conch. This shell is legendary being the largest gastropod in United States waters and among the largest shells in the world.
After hatching from their eggs, the juvenile shells are a bright orange color with a white tip on their elongated spiral, resembling candy corn. As the mollusk grows and the shell ages, the color begins to shift more to yellow/beige under their brown periostracum (skin-like membrane which helps the shell grow). Horse Conchs are predatory carnivores and spend their life cruising the ocean floor for other shells to devour.
Throughout their many years of life, the Horse Conch’s shell can collect barnacles and other marine growth which makes them blend in with their surroundings. With that being said, nothing can disguise their large highlighter-orange foot!
When seeking these shells, keep an eye out for the barnacle covered surfaces and ribbed knuckles. Ask your shell guide about the best place to search for these trophy shells in the islands.
Learn more about Florida Horse Conchs with this video!