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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 05, 2021

Whelk Facts You’ll Never Forget

Whelk facts tell us a lot about the marine world.

Discovering seashells on the shore is one of the best things about going to the beach. So, next time you come across a shell, make sure to check and see if it is the shell of a whelk. Whelks, belonging to the family Buccinidae, have spiral shells and live on muddy and sandy ocean floors, which have a depth of 16.4-656.2 ft (5-200 m). They mainly reside in cold water, and these are one of the largest snails that can be found in the seas. There are over 50 species of whelk, the most popular ones being the knobbed whelk, channeled whelk, rapa whelk, and lightning whelk. They can mostly be found in the North Atlantic and along the coastline of North America and Europe. Whelks have a very well-developed sense of smell and have the ability to sense chemical signals from their prey from a considerable distance.

Keep reading to find out more interesting whelk shell facts and to increase your knowledge of the marine world. If you enjoy reading these whelk facts, you will surely like to learn more about the prawn and the shrimp too.

Whelk Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a whelk?

A whelk is a type of sea snail.

What class of animal does a whelk belong to?

The whelk belongs to the class Gastropoda, which consists of all snail sand slugs from land, as well as in fresh and salt waters.

How many whelks are there in the world?

The total population of whelks in the world is not yet known.

Where does a whelk live?

Most whelks are native to the North Atlantic but they can now commonly be found along the coastline of North America and Europe. They can also be located in parts of the Arctic. The lightning whelk can be located along the Gulf Coast from North Carolina to Texas. The rapa whelk, however, is said to be native to the waters of the Western Pacific like the Yellow and East China Seas, the Sea of Japan, and the Bohai.

What is a whelk's habitat?

Whelks can be found in abundance in muddy or sandy-bottomed coastlines, in depths ranging between 16.4-656.2 ft (5-200 m). Younger whelks prefer living close to the shore, whereas deep-sea areas are preferred by adult whelks.

Who do whelks live with?

Adult whelk snails live a fairly solitary life, burrowed at the muddy bottom of the sea. They only come out when the temperature of the water is just right, when it is neither too hot nor too cold.

How long does a whelk live?

Gastropods usually have a very long lifespan. Whelk snails similarly have a long lifespan and live for 10-15 years. Growth rings present on them can be helpful in determining the age of whelks.

How do they reproduce?

The whelk snail is a hermaphrodite and has the ability to sexually reproduce on its own using internal fertilization. This process also enables the whelk to produce egg capsules to protect their eggs. A female whelk uses pheromones to attract males when the water temperature is suitable. Whelks like the channeled whelk and the knobbed whelk produce a 2-3 ft (70-91 cm) long string of egg capsules. This string of whelk eggs is laid by the female in deep water twice a year. The string is anchored on one end, with each capsule containing 20-100 eggs inside. A young whelk goes through different stages inside the whelk egg case and some of the egg capsules laid can be empty also, in order to protect the other young whelks.

What is their conservation status?

The different species of whelks have not yet been evaluated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature or IUCN in their Red List.

Whelk Fun Facts

What do whelks look like?

Whelks have a pale brown spiral whelk shell which is usually covered in small barnacles or algae. Its shell color can vary according to its geographic location. Inside a whelk shell, the shellfish's body is divided into three main parts: the head, abdomen, and foot. Its head carries two pairs of tentacles. The first pair is used for sensing light, and the latter for smell and touch. They also have a hard scale known as an 'operculum', which closes to seal itself inside its shell for protection.

Whelk seashells are interesting to read about.

How cute are they?

They do not have the conventional features which make us label them as cute, although their spiral shells are truly beautiful and regal.

How do they communicate?

Whelks often do not communicate with other members of their species. Only during mating does the female whelk produce pheromones to attract her male counterparts.

How big is a whelk?

There are over 50 different species of whelks that vary in size and shape. The size of a knobbed whelk can range from 5-8 in (12.7-20.32 cm) and the channeled whelk's length is also between 5-8 in (12.7-20.32 cm). The largest whelk among the species, is the trumpet whelk.

How fast can a whelk move?

The speed of a knobbed whelk along the coast of North Carolina was measured, and it was found that a knobbed whelk could only travel 0.62 miles (1 km) in a month. Whelks move with the help of their muscular foot and they also use this muscular foot to hold their prey.

How much does a whelk weigh?

The second-largest species of the Buccinidae whelk, the knobbed whelk, weighs about 2lb (907g), and one of the smaller whelks, Kellet's whelk, weighs about 0.3lb (150g).

What are their male and female names of the species?

There are no unique names given to male whelks and female whelks.

What would you call a baby whelk?

These tiny whelks have not been given a special name to be identified with and are simply known as baby whelks.

What do they eat?

Being carnivorous gastropods by nature, whelks feed on crustaceans like clams, mollusks, worms and at times can eat other whelks as well.

Are they eaten by humans?

Sea whelk is perfectly safe to be consumed by humans and is quite a healthy food choice as it is a food that is rich in omega-3. Slightly chewy, whelk meat is tender and succulent when cooked perfectly. To prepare this shellfish, it must be scrubbed clean and boiled in salted water for about three to four minutes. To take out the meat from the shell after boiling, stick a fork into the cavity of the shell and pull the shell all the way out. Channeled or knobbed whelks, which are the larger varieties of whelk, are sold as scungilli and can be found in dishes in England and Japan.

Would they make a good pet?

No, they are not easy pets to domesticate. You can look out for and try to spot whelk shells next time you are at the beach instead. The spiral shell of a whelk is one of the most beautiful shells you can find!

Did you know...

Whelks have a very well-developed sense of smell. They can orientate themselves by smell with the use of the chemoreceptors present in their osphradium. This highly developed sense of smell also helps them in differentiating between predators and prey.

Whelk, conch: what's the difference? Well if we compare whelk vs conch shells, there is a lot to learn. When it comes to whelk shell vs. conch shell differences, whelk shells suit temperate and cold waters, whereas conch shells can be found in warmer, tropical waters.

Whelks have eyespots that appear as small black spots, which can be found at the base of their cephalic tentacles.

Adult knobbed whelks start out as males and can change into females as they age. A female lightning whelk is much larger than a male lightning whelk. This provides an easy way to tell the gender apart.

What is the largest whelk?

The largest whelk among all whelk species is the trumpet whelk.

How do whelks kill their prey?

Whelks use their shell's lip to chip the valves of different bivalves like clams. They continue with this slow chipping until an opening occurs, which allows the whelk to fit between the valves, insert their proboscis and eat their prey. Another method of feeding involves the whelk extending its proboscis, which is equipped with a radula, to drill a hole into its prey's shell. Whelks have a special gland that produces a chemical that helps in softening calcium carbonate, which makes it easy for the radula to drill a hole. Once the drilling is complete, the proboscis is extended into the prey and the whelk is ready for feeding.

Here at Kidadl, we have created lots of interesting animal facts for everyone! Learn more about other arthropods including the cockle, or mantis shrimp.

You can occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our whelk coloring pages.

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