Georgia’s State Shell, the Knobbed Whelk (Busycon carica)!
Christened the state shell in 1987, the knobbed whelk is a whorled shell. It grows to eight inches long at maturity. It displays heavy spines, many knobs, and an orange or red mouth. Minerals in Georgia coastal waters cause ocher striations on the sand-colored, semi-gloss surface. This marine snail shell appears all along Georgia’s shoreline, out to 30 feet of water.
Both the knobbed whelk and the lightning whelk have knobs on the edge of each whorl. The knobbed whelks on Assateague beach are distinguishable from the lightning whelks mainly by their right-sided openings (most gastropods are “right-sided”) and their slightly larger knobs.
Knobbed whelks grow to eight or nine inches in shallow water along the coast from Massachusetts to northern Florida.
Like lightning whelks, knobbed whelks feed on clams, and the females lay strings of egg capsules attached by one end in the sand.
Photo provided by Ed Jackson.