How Does a Queen Conch Grow?
The Queen Conch starts building its shell as soon as it hatches from the egg and even before. At hatching, the shell is transparent; it has only one and a half whorl. At metamorphosis, it has already four whorls and it is no more transparent. It is large enough so that the small conch can shelter inside. Its shell grows as its body grows bigger. Then it becomes hard and thick.
When the small conch is 2 or 3 months old, its shell is white; when it is 5 or 6 month old, it starts to show brown stripes. On its foot, a horny claw called operculum enables it to leap, so it can escape or fight against predators and lock itself up within its shell.
When you encounter small queen conchs that are about 10 centimetres long, they are about one year old. Their shell forms pointed spines, a true fortress! When the Queen Conch grows, its shell lengthens and continues to grow in a spiral.
When it is about 3 years old, its shell stops growing and starts to form a broad flared lip. This shell lip shows that the Queen Conch has reached its full growth and that it will come to maturity, which means that it will be able to reproduce. The Queen Conch is now like a teenager; its shell lip is still fine and fragile. It thickens and reaches its adult size and thickness (about 5 mm) when it is about three and a half to four years old.
When the Queen Conch is growing older, its shell becomes much thicker and heavier. The spines which were long and pointed become blunted and worn. The old conch shells are often covered with algae, and even small animals settle on them as if they were rocks. The thick shell of old conchs is often smaller than that of the young adult because the edge is worn.
The conch has two pairs of tentacles on the head; it has a light-sensitive eyespot located on each of the larger tentacles. True conchs have long eye stalks with colorful ring-marked eyes. The smaller pair of tentacles is used for the sense of smell and the sense of touch.
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