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Georgia State Seashell

Knobbed Whelk Busycon carica Adopted: April 16, 1987
Georgia state seashell
Georgia State Seashell: Knobbed Whelk
"Busycon carica" by JoshuaDavisPhotography. COM
Conch Shell 2 from Flickr. Cropped 1:1 by User:Snek01.
Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

North Carolina did it years ago in 1965.

Florida did it in 1969. Mississippi and Virginia did it in 1974. South Carolina did it in 1984.

Georgia finally got around to doing it in 1987, along with Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Texas.

House Resolution No. 130, approved by unanimous votes in the Georgia House of Representatives and the Senate, declared "the Knobbed Whelk, Busycon carica, is designated as the official Georgia seashell." The approval date was April 16, 1987.


No. 42 (House Resolution No. 130).


Designating the Knobbed Whelk as the official state seashell; and for other purposes.

WHEREAS, this state has many official symbols but does not yet have a state seashell; and

WHEREAS, Busycon carica, commonly known as the Knobbed Whelk, is found naturally in the coastal waters of Georgia; and

WHEREAS, this beautiful shell is commonly found all along Georgia's shoreline; and

WHEREAS, this shell is an attractive, whorled shell with heavy spines and many knobs and has a semiglossy surface characterized by ocher striations resulting from the minerals present in the coastal waters of Georgia and an orange to red mouth; and

WHEREAS, the Knobbed Whelk is approximately eight inches long when fully mature and is found from the shoreline to 30 feet of water; and

WHEREAS, designating a state seashell will encourage citizens of the state and visitors alike to visit the beautiful beaches and coastal waters of the state.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF GEORGIA that the Knobbed Whelk, Busycon carica, is designated as the official Georgia seashell.

Approved April 16, 1987.

Picky, picky, picky...

Perhaps we're being too picky, but we think this designation is flawed. Here's why.

Busycon carica is a whelk that lives along the eastern sea coast of the United States. It's found along the shoreline and out to about 30 feet of water. A whelk is a sea snail. A whelk has a shell.

We know that the various species of whelk can be differentiated by the shapes of their shells.

Georgia has designated the knobbed whelk their official state seashell, but shouldn't they have more precisely designated the shell of the knobbed whelk their official state seashell?

Most of the states that have designated official shells have not made the distinction but the most recent members of the official state shell club, New Jersey and Delaware, have passed legislation that carefully stipulates that it is the "shell of..." that they are recognizing, not the animal itself.

By the way, in 1995, New Jersey also selected the knobbed whelk or, rather, the shell of the knobbed whelk as its official state shell.


"ACTS AND RESOLUTIONS OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF GEORGIA 1987 ." GALILEO: Georgia Legislative Documents. The Georgia General Assembly, 16 Apr. 1987. Web. 25 Aug. 2014.

Associated Press. "State votes on official seashell." Observer-Reporter [Washington, Penn.] 8 Feb. 1987, sec. E: 6. Print.

Associated Press. "Whelk Attains Official Status." Daily News-Record [Harrisonburg, Va.] 6 Feb. 1987: 10. Print.

Shearer, Benjamin F. and Barbara S. State Names, Seals, Flags and Symbols: A Historical Guide Third Edition, Revised and Expanded. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 3 Sub edition, 2001.

Additional Information

Georgia state seashell
Georgia State Seashell: Knobbed Whelk
Knobbed whelk on a sandy beach

Busycon carica (Gmelin, 1791) Knobbed Whelk: Photographs from the Jacksonville Shell Club.

Knobbed whelk (Busycon carica): iNaturalist.org: California Academy of Sciences.

Busycon carica Knobbed Whelk: Encyclopedia of Life: Providing Global Access to Knowledge About Life on Earth.

Busycon carica: Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce, Florida.

Busycon carica (Gmelin, 1791) Knobbed Whelk: A network connecting science with conservation - NatureServe Explorer: An Online Encyclopedia of Life.

Busycon carica (Gmelin, 1791): Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) Here you will find authoritative taxonomic information on plants, animals, fungi, and microbes of North America and the world.

Management Plan: Whelk: Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Coastal Resources Division.

State shells: Complete list of official state shells from NETSTATE.COM

More symbols & emblems: Complete list of official Georgia state symbols from NETSTATE.COM.

Smithsonian Handbooks: Shells
Smithsonian Handbooks

S. Peter Dance

Smithsonian Handbooks: Shells, by S. Peter Dance. 256 pages. Publisher: Dorling Kindersley (May 15, 2002) Authoritative text, crystal-clear photography, and a systematic approach make DK's Smithsonian Handbook of Shells the most comprehensive and concise pocket guide to seashells of the world. Packed with over 600 full-color photographs of over 500 species of seashells, this handy reference book is designed to cut through the complex process of identification.

Compendium of Seashells
of Seashells

Compendium of Seashells, by R. Tucker Abbott and S. Peter Dance. 411 pages. Odyssey Publications; 4 edition (July 2000) A full-color guide to more than 4,200 of the world's marine shells. This comprehensive, full-color identification book on marine shells of the world is a must for serious shell-collectors and hobbyists. Combined by two of the world's leading malacologists, this beautiful and authoritative reference volume includes 4,200 full-color photographs to make shell identification quick and easy. All categories of marine shells are described and illustrated, including individual photographs, geographical and ecological information on hundreds of species of cowry, cone, valute, scallop, helmet and many others. Compendium of Seashells is designed to facilitate rapid location and identification of almost every shell likely to be found in a private collection or shell shop.

National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Seashells
Field Guide to North
American Seashells
National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Seashore Creatures
Field Guide to North
American Seashore Creatures

Norman A. Meinkoth

National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Seashells, Revision authors are James D. Williams, Research Associate, Florida Museum of Natural History, and Carter R. Gilbert, Curator Emeritus of Fishes of the Florida Museum of Natural History. 896 pages. Publisher: Knopf (August 12, 1981) The essential book for beach-combers and divers, this guide explores more than 705 seashells, living mollusks, abalone, periwinkles, conchs, limpets, oysters, clams, mussels, and cockles found on the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf coasts of North America and the West Indies. The photographs are arranged by shape and color, making identification quick and easy.

National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Seashore Creatures, by Norman A. Meinkoth. 816 pages. Publisher: Chanticleer Press ed edition (December 12, 1981) Each of the 690 identification pictures is a full-color photograph of a seashore creature. Arrangement by shape and by color makes identification quick and easy. 666 species are covered in full detail.