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Shell Seeker

By Staff | Jun 23, 2010

Chestnut Turban (Turbo castanea)

When I hear the word turban the first image that comes to mind is headgear. As young children spending an afternoon at the beach, we would take damp beach towels and craft our own version of a turban. An unconfirmed legend reports that thousands of years ago a bather taking advantage of an oasis in the middle of the desert wrapped a damp towel around his head to lengthen the cooling sensation experienced.

Almost all turbans are found in tropical water, with a range from North Carolina to Brazil.

The chestnut turban (Turbo castanea) belongs to the Turbinidae family. The very solid, heavy, rough, dome shape is represented well by its name. It is actually shaped like an inverted top and has a thin periostracum. The aperture (opening) is round and almost vertical with an outer lip that faces downward. The calcareous (composed of calcium carbonate) operculum is round, white, smooth, and externally convex. The well known cat’s eye is the operculum of a South Pacific species used in jewelry.

At 1 1/4 inches high, a chestnut turban is a little less than twice as wide as it is high. The umbilicus is absent. The umbilicus is the hole around which the inner surface of the shell is coiled, when that space is not filled by a columella. The columella is a central anatomical element of a gastropod. It is often only clearly visible as a structure when the shell is broken, or sliced in half vertically.

The chestnut turban is an herbivore known for its voracious appetite for algae. It is found in grassy areas close to the shore line. There is great variation in the color of the shell with everything from orange to brown, grey, tan, and rust with white or dark brown spots of varying sizes. The surface of the shell is sculptured with spiral rows of beads with fine lines in the interspaces. The spire (all of the whorls of a gastropod except the body whorl) consists of five or six rounded whorls. The sutures (where two whorls connect) are separated by channels.

The sexes are separate. Eggs are shed into sea and the larvae are free swimming.