Posted: Aug 2 2007
Strombus alatus Gmelin, 1791, Florida Fighting Conch
Strombus alatus is the most common Stombidae found around Florida. It is found on both sides of the peninsula and the Florida Keys. It is very similar to S. pugilis Linneaus, 1758, which is also reported as occuring in Florida. However, it has been suggested, and I would concur, that S. pugilis is not a native Floridian species, rather it is a Caribbean species that has reached the Florida peninsula and interbred with Florida's S. alatus. In my experience there is only one apparent location where S. pugilis and it's hybrids occur in Florida - Palm Beach County Florida’s east coast. In this area specimens can be found clearly having the characteristics of either S. alatus or S. pugilis as well as specimens with characteristics of both, where it is a toss-up as to which name to assign. This presentation relies mostly on specimens of S. alatus from other locations around Florida. S. pugilis is treated in a separate presentation. A comparison of the two is presented at the end of this presentation.
CLICK HERE for many more images.
DISCUSSION OF RANGE FOR Strombus alatus ALONG FLORIDA'S EAST COAST
Since I first joined LTS I have been contacted by researchers and collectors for data, references and assistance regarding Strombus alatus. These contacts resulted in interactive communications providing information about this shell. It occurred to me that it might be a good idea to use LTS to record and make available this information (including serving as a focal point identifying researchers and collectors working with and/or interested in this shell). Unfortunately, I cannot find my records of contacts prior to the one presented below, so this record starts with Ms. Whitenack's inquiry.
I would encourage all those interested in Strombus alatus to contribute and comment. Let's Talk Seashells’ vision is to serve as an open community where shell collectors/researchers can reach and discuss with others all aspects of this interest, share experiences, seek help, share photos and information, and serve as a repository and resource for related information. If any of the persons identified would prefer that they not be identified, please do not hesitate to contact me and request that your name and/or comments be removed.
April 28, 2009 - Lisa Whitenack inquired via LTS email:
My name is Lisa Whitenack; I'm a postdoc with Greg Herbert at USF. He suggested that I email you regarding FL east coast Strombus pugilis. We're currently working on a study of shell shape in Strombus alatus, pugilis, and gracilior, with the eventual goal of figuring out how many species of Strombus are in the fossil record of Florida. The majority of our specimens have been part of museum collections, including the UF museum in Gainsville and a future visit to the museum in Sanibel. We're grouping our shells by region and have good coverage of the west coast, but so far we're Strombus-poor for the east coast north of Palm Beach. We were wondering if you would be able to help us out with our problem. Do you know of either collections of Strombus from this area, or do you have any recommendations for sites where we could collect these? Any information you could give us would be a great help.
Thanks for your time!
April 28, 2009 - Marlo replied:
“In the past 15 years I have not come across live S. alatus north of Jupiter Inlet. I have one recently-dead-collect specimen from about two years ago in Sebastian Inlet and I believe Phil Poland may have collected some live specimens north of Jupiter during the 90's. Paul Mikkelsen collects extensively in the Port Sewell area.”
After a little research Marlo a little later added:
“I reviewed some of my records and found the following excerpt from the manuscript of Harry Lee’s upcoming book on Mollusks of NE Florida. He reports having found predominantly empty S. alatus shells off shore and in the inlets in Duval and St. Johns Counties. Try contacting Bill Frank who collects extensively in these areas.”
April 28, 2009 - Upon receiving a cc copy of Marlo’s email, Bill Frank volunteered:
“Within the past year live sub-adult Strombus alatus have begun showing up intertidally in northeast Florida. The first specimens were found at St. Augustine Inlet in the Vilano Beach area and more recently (within the past month) one was found at Matanzas Inlet by Joel Wooster of Daytona. Prior to that, I’m not aware of any live specimens being found intertidally in northeast Florida over the past 20 years. The species is present offshore from Jacksonville and I have collected live specimens that were on the beach as a result of beach renourishment. Empty shells (both full adults and juveniles) turn up in the wrack line in Jacksonville from time to time. In any case, live specimens (or empty shells for that matter) are rare intertidally in northeast Florida. I personally am not aware of any Strombus pugilis being found north or the Peanut Island/Palm Beach Inlet area but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t there. The empty adult S. alatus I’ve found here appear to be much heavier than those from the Palm Beach Inlet area, the Florida Keys, or west Florida..
Bill Frank http://www.jaxshells.org/ ”
April 28, 2009 - Phil Poland reported:
"Jupiter Inlet was my northern limit for live-collected raninus and alatus. Some gigas have been collected on the west coast of Florida, with records off Pass-a-Grille (1948, Selma Lawson; and 1960s, a local diver). I know it sounds crazy. I saw one of the 1960s shells and it was almost spineless, like it had been tumbled repeatedly, but the bright pink in the aperture left no doubt.
Jake Mitchell of Naples has recently found a colony of pugilis, every bit as distinctive as the best from Peanut Island, near Marco Island."
April 30, 2009 - Lisa acknowledged:
“Thank you so much for your responses! The information you gave me will be very helpful in figuring out our next steps for this project. I've forwarded the emails on to Greg as well.
April 30, 2009 - Marlo replied:
“I would like to be kept informed of your efforts and collecting plans along the FL east coast as some of us may be able to participate and help. Maybe, we’ll be able to persuade Bill or Joel to serve as guides.”
In 2008 Brian Marshall photographed a live specimen in the Tolomato River, St. Augustine Inlet, St. Johns Co., FL.
In the summer of 2010 Marlo found a juvenile, living Strombus alatus in the north sound inside Matanzas Inlet, St. Johns County.
On 9/27/11 Bill Frank found an adult live Strombus alatus at the Mayport Naval Station Beach, Jacksonville, Duval County. CLICK HERE for photos and details.
5/15/17 bullas1 reported finding the adjacent specimen in the Indian River Lagoon,
Volusia Co., FL, on 5/13/17. He commented: "First ever (by me) live collected
Strombus alatus in IndianRiver,Volusia Co,Florida. Only took 20+ years to find one.
6/18/17 Harry Lee:
For the last few years this species has been "trying" to establish a presence in the St. Johns Co. inlets. Lately there has been a "population explosion" on the flats between the SW end of St. Augustine Inlet and the N end of the embayment known as Salt Run.
Just how much of this "explosion" is due to extremely low tidal exposure and how much is an actual colonization remains conjectural. See Florida Fighting Conch.
The planktotrophic protoconch of this and most confamilial "true conchs" allows from efficient dispersal of larval stages and, as may be the case here, rapid colonization of previously extralimital habitat.
was collected near
I am an archaeologist working on the Florida Gulf Coast, and I'm hoping the LTS community can help me figure something out.
I am currently working at an archaeological site that has patches of dense shell refuse ("midden"), typically a combination of Strombus alatus, Busycon sinistrum, Argopecten irradians, Pleuroploca gigantea, Macrocallista nimbosa, and a few other species.
But some of the patches are almost exclusively (99%) S. alatus, of uniform (adult) size. What could explain this? Collecting these guys in such large numbers seems difficult. I have looked for live S. alatus in the surrounding area, and have had no success. I suspect they are around, as I've seen hermit crabs occupying dead S. alatus shells.
(1) Does anyone know of live S. alatus forming dense aggregations, as S. gigas does?
(2) Are they typically observed moving along the surface of the substrate, or are they normally buried within the substrate? (Maybe my failure to find them was a matter of technique?)
I look forward to hearing your thoughts! Thanks!
6/29/12 Susan Hewitt:
Strombus alatus lives quite densely on sand bars which are not quite subtidal but which are usually not exposed to the air except during minus tides that occur with the full moon and new moon. At those times, in places where there is really good habitat, like on the Gulf Coast of Sanibel, it would in theory be very easy to collect hundreds and hundreds of live adult individuals in quite a small area of a few hundred meters. I have written a paper which mentions some aspects of the behavior of this species and it might be relevant to your studies. This paper is currently "in press" at the journal "Festivus". The paper hopefully will be coming out before the end of this year.
Thank you, that's great information. I'll try to get my hands on that paper when it comes out!
In your description of Strombus alatus, you mentioned that
the body whorl is smooth. I am presently working on my Upper
Pleistocene collection including Strombus alatus from the Fort
Thompson Formation of South Florida. I have a single specimen
which has strong spiral structure over the entire shell. Undoubtedly
some would probably call this a subspecies of S. alatus, but I am
much more conservative in my identifications. I would like to know
if present populations of S. alatus contain individuals with this
The spiral cords are present in juveniles and sometimes around
the base area in adults, but I don't recall adults with cording over
the entire adult body whorl. Note the 85.7 mm specimen from
Judge Jolly Bridge and the 85.4 mm specimen from Content Keys
in slides above.
Seem like they are very common gulf side and also in fossils there found plenty of fossils of this Tampa bay. Uncommon keys at least for me. Rare to non-existing treasure coast never found one not even a broken piece. Hermit crabs in Indian river fort pierce inlet doesn't use them. Fossils treasure coast rare maybe juvenile but not sure. Found a hermit crab with S. alatus shell at fort pierce a few years ago.