The Florida Fighting Conch
The Florida Fighting Conch, Strombus alatus Gmelin, 1791, is one of Southwest Florida’s best known and most abundant mollusks. So much could be said about that species, but today I want to focus on some differences between the juvenile (young) and the adult shells. In many species of the conch genus Strombus, the juvenile (young) shell differs considerably from that of the adult. The texture of the adult shell is usually smooth, and its color is very variable: there are different hues of orange, lavender, white, and brown, as well as assorted patterns, from checkered to striped to the much-desired albinistic (all white) shells. The juvenile Florida Fighting Conch shell is more elegant, more elongated, ornamented with a sculpture of strong spiral incised (“etched”) lines, and its coloration is always much lighter and delicate than that of the adult, usually white with light brown markings.
The photos show the Florida fighting conch at different growth stages, from left: adult shell, juvenile shell, and scanning electron microscope detail showing the larval shell (protoconch.) All photos by José H. Leal.