The Assateague
Naturalist

Picture
Picture
The Lightning Whelk (Busycon contrarium)
up to about 15 inches

Lightning whelk shells, found along the southern East Coast, are distinguished from most of the other whelk shells on Assateague beach--particularly from the knobbed whelk--by their left-side (sinistral) opening (lower photo).

Most often, these whelks eat clams--usually one a month. With its large foot, the whelk pries open the clam's shell. Then, with the clam shell held open by the edge of its own shell, the whelk sends its proboscis and toothed, tongue-like radula inside to rasp and eat the softer "meat."

Whelk egg capsules can also be found along the beach.

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