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Shell Museum displays exquisite “Shell of the Moment”

By Staff | Mar 9, 2011

The Shell Museum’s “Shell of the Moment” is this slit snail.

When visiting The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum be sure to stop by the “Shell of the Moment” display featuring an exquisite slit snail. The largest horse conch (Florida state shell) on record, which previously held this prestigious distinction, can be found in the Museum’s newest exhibit, “World Record-Size Shells.”

The family Pleurotomariidae (slit snails) includes about 30 living species. Except for their larger size, shells of living slit snails look very much like the fossil shells of their relatives from as early as 250 million years ago. For this reason, slit snails are regarded as “living fossils.”

All slit snail shells display the characteristic slit that helps direct the flow of waste water away from the snail’s head. This magnificent specimen of an Entemnotrochus rumphii represents the largest slit snail in the Pleurotomariidae family. It was donated by longtime Museum supporters Dorothy and Lowell DeVasure, of Sanibel Island.

The Rumphius slit snail may reach 11 inches in diameter, and lives in deep waters around Japan, the East and South China seas, Taiwan, and the Philippine Islands. The scientific name of the species honors Georgius Everhardus Rumphius, a 17th Century German naturalist who did much to popularize shell collecting in his time.

The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum is located at 3075 Sanibel-Captiva Road, Sanibel, Florida. The Museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Check the Museum’s website, www.shellmuseum.org for additional program information.