Before moving to Florida, I knew nothing about sea shells and the wonderful little creatures that inhabited them. A few days after moving to Davie Florida in April of 2016, my husband and I decided to take a day trip to Naples. The drive was an hour and a half long on one perfectly straight highway through the everglades. The excitement of driving through swampy wetlands for the first time kept us occupied for the entire ride.
At the beach in Naples, we enjoyed the warm waters, and I quickly noticed that Florida beaches had more seashells than I had ever seen on a beach before. As I walked along the beach searching for shells, I noticed a beautiful little conch shell nestled in the sand. I picked it up excited to take home such an unbroken and beautiful shell, but to my surprise, it was occupied by a little squishy slug-like creature. I gently placed the shell right back in the sand where I found it and went on my way searching for other, uninhabited shells.
Later that same day, we went to Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park just a little further north in Naples. While walking along the more natural beach there, I found more conch shells along the shore, each of them were alive. We did however find eleven beautiful empty shells on a sandbar that I was able to take home. To this day, I still have them displayed on my windowsills reminding me of the uniqueness of each one of these shells. No two shells look alike. They share the same basic shape, but each has their own unique coloring and pattern. Some are a beautiful deep brown color, others are much lighter, almost white, and some have magnificent stripes.
At the time I found the shells, I knew nothing about them. It wasn’t until two weeks later that I discovered they were called Fighting Conchs. Despite their name, none have attacked me, they are rather soft and gentle creatures. If they do fight, it is typically male conchs fighting other males since they are territorial.
Months later, in January of 2017, I had the opportunity to see more live fighting conchs. One day, my husband and I were searching for sea shells at Indian Rocks Beach and we spotted perfect whole conch shells nestled into the very wet sand on the water’s edge. We picked one up, and sure enough, there was a beautiful little conch inside just like the live ones I had seen back in Naples. There were countless living conchs lining the shore, every one of them was alive. We noticed how they would dig themselves into the wet sands, probably to stay protected and not dry out, and possibly to eat detritus. It also kept them from being pushed around by the waves. Some conchs were burrowed deep in the sand, almost completely covering their entire shell. It was hard to find them since just a small side of their shell was visible.
I was amazed at how the soft squishy looking bodies of these little creatures could dig so well. After seeing these little creatures, I saw how truly alive they are. Before, I thought of them as simple, mindless creatures, but I realize now: they are so much more.
A week later when my parents came to visit, we went to the same beach, and again found countless fighting conchs lining the shore, burrowed into the wet sand. I noticed a few that were overturned or out in the dry sand and helped them back to where it was safe. After picking one up thinking it was empty, we found it was alive and gently placed it back down. Right away we could see it start to burrow again and dig itself safe into the sand. My family and I walked down the beach in excitement, pointing out every little conch we noticed and watching as they dug their little burrows. I will never forget this moment or these little creatures.