Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU-TV
It kind of looks like one of those vintage ’80′s jackets adorned with mirrors and sequins- mollusk style. This horse conch’s got a little bit of everything on it, the result of an interesting reversal of roles in this seagrass bed on Bay Mouth Bar.
In this ecosystem, a horse conch is the top predator. This football sized snail eats a lot of the other large predatory snails, of which Bay Mouth Bar has plenty, from tulip snails to whelks to moon snails to the kind of strange white baby ear. Some of those, especially the lightning whelk, get pretty large, but not as large as a horse conch can get. The landscape reigned over by these snails is diverse as well, featuring brittle stars, sand dollars, sea squirts, spider and hermit crabs, polychaete worms, and a large variety of bivalves.
When this horse conch died, it took on a lot of that diversity right on its shell, going from top dog of the habitat to practically being a habitat itself.
And in this photo, in addition to an oyster spat, are barnacles (the roundish objects towards the right). All of our boaters out there know these little crustaceans, who like oysters and some other bivalves build on hard surfaces (like the hull of a boat).
Once I sort through all of the photos and videos from Sunday’s trip to Bay Mouth Bar, I’ll be adding some to the Bay Mouth Bar species page. As you can see from the variety of life just on this dead snail, it’s got a lot going on. I look forward to going back!
4-23-11: CORRECTION- the snail shell the hermit crab is in was initially listed as crepidula. This has been fixed.