Wow, That's a Big Shell!
The plan for this particular night dive was to find an Octopus, not to spot a Florida Horse Conch. On the way up-current, I came across this magnificent moving shell. Most shells in this area are occupied by conch crabs, so to see this "sea snail" crawling along the bottom was quite exciting! Undeterred from my light or presence, the mollusk continued over rocks and broken coral. The power of the foot to slither over the rocks into the current was fairly impressive, considering the strong surge that was present that night.
It took some research to discover what this critter actually was. Though I've dived in this area off the coast of Mexico, I had never seen a shell quite like it. Different from other true conch shells, the Florida Horse Conch has a smoother shell with multiple whorls. This particular shell has 5 whorls. Based on research we've found on shell coloring, size and the number of whorls, this animal is an adult.
Florida Horse Conch
The mollusk is technically not a "conch" in the true sense, but still the largest gastropod in its family. Because the animal and its shell can grow so large, it is a popular shell for beachcombers and shell collectors. While this particular specimen was not located in its namesake of Florida, these animals are commonly found between North Carolina to the Yucatan, making Florida the central location.
Interesting tidbit: The Florida Horse Conch is neither a horse, nor a conch, and not located in Florida.
Hey...we don't name stuff, we just dive.