A pink-shelled living specimen of Common Whelk, Buccinum undatum Linnaeus, washed onto the rocks of Burry Holms on Rhossili Bay, Gower, after stormy winter weather.
Until a couple of years ago, the only place where I had seen the meaty part of a Common Whelk was at the fishmongers. I had no idea that the living animal could be such a lovely creature. The specimen at the top of this post unexpectedly had a beautiful pink shell. Its living flesh was white with black irregular speckles – particularly concentrated at the head end. You can see the two horns or cephalic tentacles sticking out on each side of the head.
On the back of the large muscular white foot is the brown horny operculum which is the lid with which it seals itself inside the shell when it retreats. Protruding from the front end of the shell, just over the head, is the tubular siphon through which is takes in water.
Mostly, in the past, I have just found the empty shells on the beach. The colour can be quite variable. The close-up photograph above shows a fairly typical brown and cream coloured shell and it is possible to see some details of the shape and sculpturing of the shell. At a later date I will provide some specific details of how to accurately identify the shell. I will also talk a bit about the life history of the Common Whelk.
The picture below shows a group of empty shells in various colours from cream and white, to orange and a dark blue/black. These were found on Whiteford Sands in Gower.
Revision of a post first published 7 July 2009
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