In 1987, the lightning whelk was selected to be Texas’s official state shell. Lightning whelks’ shells are about 2.5 - 16 inches, or 6 - 40 centimeters in length. The “lightning” part of their name indicates the light brown “lightning” streaks across their shell. They are unique because their shells are the only shells that open to the left. The lightning whelk is actually an animal, and not a shell. The animal inside is a very dark color. They are found in the Gulf of Mexico and the Southeast coast of the US, ranging from South Carolina to Texas. They mostly eat oysters, clams, and scallops. Some of their predators are gulls, crabs, and other whelks.
Even though some Native American tribes considered lightning whelks sacred because they were the only shells that opened on the left, they still used whelks for religious purposes, food, and everyday tools, like utensils or small shovels. Remains were found in burial grounds. Their shells have also been used around the world as lamps. It is thought that sailors used to use lightning whelk egg strands as sponges for cleaning. In some parts of Asia, lightning whelks are also thought sacred, so Westerners catch lightning whelks and sell them to Easterners.
The lightning whelks have been living on Earth for 60 million years.
I think the lightning whelk is our state shell because of its impact on our history.
McCoy, Erin Kathleen. “Lightning Whelk.” Statesymbolsusa.org. 27 Aug. 2012. State Symbols USA. 4 Sep. 2012 <http://www.statesymbolsusa.org/Texas/Lightning_Whelk_Shell.html >
Smith, Carter. “Lightning Whelk.” Tpwd.state.tx.us. 27 Jan. 2009. Texas Parks and Wildlife. 4 Sep. 2012 <http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/wild/species/lwhelk/>