Channeled Whelk (Busycotypus canaliculatus Linnaeus, 1758)

Channeled Whelk
Busycotypus canaliculatus Linnaeus, 1758

Channeled Whelk:
Wampum from Whelks

By Patricia B. Mitchell.

An adult Channeled Whelk shell is as tall as 7 inches, or in some cases, 9 inches. It is a pear-shaped univalve with 5-7 whorls, on the shoulders of which are “turrets” (squared-off, low knobs). The gray shell has a large aperture with a narrow, straight canal. When alive the Channeled Whelk, a type of conch, has a yellow-brown, stiff, hairy covering (periostracum) all over its shell.

The necklace-like egg cases of the Channeled Whelk may sometimes be found on the beach. They look a lot like the disk-shaped egg cases of the Knobbed Whelk, but the Knobbed Whelk's cases have a double-keeled edge, where as the Channeled Whelk's egg cases narrow to a somewhat sharp-edged margin.

In her 1931 book, Julia E. Rogers wrote about some ways that people have used Busycotypus canaliculatus shells, or parts thereof:

The Indians cut the long, white columella of the giant whelk into beads to make their wampum belts. Three beads were worth an English penny in early Colonial days in Massachusetts. A fathom string was worth five shillings. In the South the shells are often used to border garden beds and paths. Drinking fessels were made of them by Indians. Fulgur flower pots are often seen to-day in Florida. The sharp edge of the aperture made cutting tools for the aboriginies.

This shell may wash up from Massachusetts to eastern Florida.


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