Lightning Whelks, Sinistrofulgur sinistrum, are special in several ways. Not only are their shells left-handed (shell opens to the left) but, during mating season in late fall and winter, several males may converge on a much-larger female to fertilize her eggs. During the mating event, each male will fertilize a different batch of eggs in the same female. When the young start hatching in late winter-early fall, a single string of egg capsules will yield children from the same mother, but from different fathers. This photo, taken on January 9, 2023, at Pine Island Sound in Southwest Florida, symbolizes the recovery and perpetuation of local molluscan life in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.
The Lightning Whelk's Reverse Harem
Lightning Whelks, Sinistrofulgur sinistrum, mating. Pine Island Sound, SW Florida. Photo by José H. Leal.