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Knobbed Whelk – Georgia’s State Seashell

Knobbed Whelk Jekyll Island
Knobbed Whelk Appearance

Georgia’s Knobbed Whelk has six spirals radiating outwards, with points or knobs around the top. Its shell consists of white, brown, and grey colors, with an orange mouth. If the shell is alive, its glass-like brown foot will cover the shell opening. The Knobbed Whelk is right-handed. Hold the shell in your right hand with the spiral pointing up and the opening facing you. If you point your thumb up you can imagine the fingers of your right hand sticking into the whelk shell’s opening. The Lightning Whelk is a left-handed whelk which looks very similar to the Knobbed Whelk. It is the only left-handed whelk that lives near Jekyll’s shores.

Knobbed Whelk
Knobbed Whelk Classification and Habitat

A mollusk is an animal with no internal skeleton. Gastropods are a class of mollusks with one coiled shell, like the whelk, or no shell, such as a slug. As a univalve, a whelk grows a shell around itself for protection. Since clams and oysters have two shells, these mollusks belong to the bivalve class. A Knobbed Whelks uses its foot to pry open and feed on the bivalves that share its waters.

The Knobbed Whelk lives in deep water during the summer and winter months. Then it moves into shallow intertidal sand and mud flats, such as those found off of Jekyll’s coast during the Spring and Fall. During this time, the whelk lays long spiral-shaped strings of egg cases that contain up to a 100 tiny shells in each case. You can often find this shell on Jekyll’s southern beaches during low tides or in the tide pools on the eastern beaches.

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