Conch Shell

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Mollusca
Class: Gastropoda
Subclass: Orthogastropoda
Superorder: Caenogastropoda
Order: Sorbeoconcha
Suborder: Hypsogastropoda
Infraorder: Littorinimorpha
Superfamily: Stromboidea
Family: Strombidae
Genus: Strombus

Description:
A conch (pronounced as “konk” or “konch”) is one of a number of different species of medium-sized to large saltwater snails or their shells. True conchs are marine gastropod molluscs in the family Strombidae, and the genus Strombus.

.click to see the pictures

The name “conch” however, is often quite loosely applied in English-speaking countries to several kinds of very large snail-like shells of salt-water molluscs that are pointed at both ends. That is, a conch’s shell has a high spire and a noticeable siphonal canal. Other species often called a “conch” include the crown conch Melongena species; the horse conch Pleuroploca gigantea; and the sacred chank or more correctly Shankha shell, Turbinella pyrum. None of these are in the family Strombidae, but instead in other families of the molluscs.

The true conch species within the genus Strombus vary in size from fairly small to very large. Several of the larger species are economically important as food sources; these include the endangered queen conch or pink conch Strombus gigas, which very rarely may produce a pink, gem quality pearl.

About 74 species of the Strombidae family are living, and a much larger number of species exist only in the fossil record.  Of the living species, most are in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Six species live in the greater Caribbean region, including the Queen Conch, and the West Indian Fighting Conch, Strombus pugilis.

Many species of conch live on sandy bottoms among beds of sea grass in warm tropical waters.

Live animal of fighting conch ->.…CLICK & SEE THE PICTURES

Anatomy:
Like almost all shelled gastropods, conches have spirally constructed shells. Again, as is normally the case in many gastropods, this spiral shell growth is usually right-handed, but on very rare occasions it can be left-handed.

True conchs have long eye stalks, with colorful ring-marked eyes. The shell has a long and narrow aperture, and a short siphonal canal, with another indentation near the anterior end called a stromboid notch. This notch is where one of the two eye stalks protrudes from the shell. The true conch has a foot ending in a pointed, sickle-shaped, operculum which can be dug into the substrate as part of an unusual “leaping” locomotion.

True conchs grow a flared lip on their shells only upon reaching sexual maturity. Animals which are harvested by fishermen before they reach this stage are juveniles, and have not had a chance to reproduce.

Conchs lay eggs in long, gelatinous strands

Species :-
Strombus alatus
Strombus gigas
Strombus luhuanus
Strombus pugilis
Strombus tricornis
Strombus canarium
Strombus dolomena
Strombus gibberulus
Strombus conomurex
Strombus lentigo
Strombus doxander
Strombus urceus
Strombus fragilis
Strombus gallus
Strombus dentatus
Strombus marginatus
Strombus raninus
Strombus buvonius

Different Uses:
As food
Second in popularity only to the escargot for edible snails, the “meat” of the conch is used as food, either eaten raw, as in salads, or cooked, as in fritters, chowders, gumbos, and burgers. All parts of the conch meat are edible. However, some people find only the white meat appetizing.

In East Asian cuisines, this seafood is often cut into thin slices and then steamed or stir-fried.

In the Bahamas and Haiti, natives eat conch in soups and salads, and restaurants all over the islands serve this particular meat.

In El Salvador, live conch is served in a cocktail of onion, tomato, cilantro, and lemon juice. Lemon juice is squeezed onto the cocktail, causing the conch to squirm, and then the whole thing is slurped down whole, as in the manner of oysters.

As musical instruments:-
Conch shells can be used as wind instruments, by cutting a small hole in the spire and then blowing into the shell as if it were a trumpet, as in blowing horn.

Conch shell trumpets were historically used throughout the South Pacific, in countries such as Fiji. In resorts in Fiji they still blow the shell as a performance for the tourists. The Fijians also used the conch shell when the chief died: the chief’s body would be brought down a special path and the conch would be played until the chief’s body reached the end of the path. Only the chief’s body could go down that path.

The American jazz trombonist Steve Turre also plays conches, notably with his group Sanctified Shells.

A partially echoplexed Indian conch was featured prominently as the primary instrument depicting the extraterrestrial environment of the derelict spaceship in Jerry Goldsmith‘s score for the film Alien. Director Ridley Scott was so impressed by the eerie effect that he requested its use throughout the rest of the score, including the Main Title.

Composer John Cage has used partially water-filled conch shells, which, when tilted slowly, create gurgling sounds beyond the player’s control, which are then amplified. This sound effect was used by James Horner in the film Troy and by Annea Lockwood in her compositions.

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Pearls:……CLICK & SEE
Many gastropods (snails and sea snails, of which the conch is the latter) produce pearls, and those of the Queen Conch, Strombus gigas, have been collectors’ items since Victorian times. Conch pearls come in a range of hues, including white, brown and orange and many intermediate shades, but pink is the colour most associated with the conch pearl. Conch pearls are sometimes referred to simply as ‘pink pearls’. In some gemmological texts, non-nacreous gastropod pearls used to be referred to as ‘calcareous concretions’ because they were ‘porcellaneous’ (i.e. shiny and ceramic-like) in appearance rather than ‘nacreous’ (i.e. with a pearly lustre sometimes known as ‘orient’). However, Kenneth Scarrat, the director of GIA in Bangkok recently argued that conch calcareous concretions should be called ‘pearls’. Although non-nacreous, the surface of fine Conch pearls has a unique and attractive appearance of its own. The microstructure of conch pearls comprises partly-aligned bundles of microcrystalline fibres which create a shimmering, slightly iridescent effect known as ‘flame structure’. The effect is a form of chatoyancy, caused by the interaction of light rays with the microcrystals in the pearl’s surface, and it somewhat resembles Moiré silk.

Other uses
*Conch shells are sometimes used as decoration, as decorative planters, and in cameo making.

*In classic Mayan art, conchs are shown being utilized in many ways including as paint and ink holders for elite scribes, as bugles or trumpets, and as hand weapons (held by combatants by inserting their hands in the aperture).

*Some American Aboriginals used cylindrical conch columella beads as part of breastplates and other personal adornment. See Hair Pipes.

*In some Caribbean and African American cemeteries, conch shells are placed on graves. (The Last Miles of the Way: African
*Homegoing Traditions, 1890-Present, edited by Elaine Nichols).

*In some Caribbean countries, cleaned Queen Conch (Strombus gigas) shells, or polished fragments, are sold, mainly to tourists, as souvenirs or in jewelry. Without a permit, however, export is a breach of CITES regulations, and may lead to arrest . This is most likely to occur on return to the tourist’s home country while clearing customs. In the UK conch shells are the ninth most seized import.

*Conch shells are occasionally used as a building material, either in place of bricks, or as bulk for landfill.

*In Grenada fishermen use Conch shells to announce to the community that fish is available for sale. It is also used at Carnival times in the popular Jouvert Jump where Diab Diab (Jab Jab) mas blow conch shells as part of the festivities.

Religious use:-

The Hindu tradition
A Shankha shell (the shell of a Turbinella pyrum, a species in the gastropod family Turbinellidae) is often referred to in the West as a conch shell, or a chank shell. This shell is used as an important ritual object in Hinduism. The shell is used as a ceremonial trumpet, as part of religious practices, for example puja. The chank trumpet is sounded during worship at specific points, accompanied by ceremonial bells and singing.
..

A Hindu priest blowing a Sankh during a puja.In the story of Dhruva the divine conch plays a special part. The warriors of ancient India blew conch shells to announce battle, as is described in the beginning of the war of Kurukshetra, in the Mahabharata, the famous Hindu epic.

The god of Preservation, Vishnu, is said to hold a special conch, Panchajanya, that represents life, as it has come out of life-giving waters.

As it is an auspicious instrument,it is often played in a Lakshmi puja in temple or at home.

In Bengal, Hindu house wives blow Shankha three times every evening and  also in all auspicious functions in the house .   They wear  bangles made from shankha(conch shell) after marriage.

The Buddhist tradition
Buddhism has also incorporated the conch shell, as one of the Eight Auspicious Symbols.

Ancient Peru
The Moche people of ancient Peru worshiped the sea and often depicted conch shells in their art.

In literature and in the oral tradition
William Golding’s Lord of the Flies features frequent references to “the Conch”. In the book the conch is used as a trumpet to call everyone together and held by whoever is speaking at meetings, symbolically representing democracy and order. When a boulder released by Roger, Jack’s lieutenant, smashes the conch, it is a sign that civilized order has fully collapsed since Jack’s eventual increasing influence. At the same time, Piggy dies.

The famous Old English riddle Ic wæs be Sonde describes a conch: “I was by sound, near seawall, at ocean-stream; I dwelt alone in my first resting place. … Little did I know that I, ere or since, ever should speak mouthless over mead-benches.”

In popular folklore, it is believed that if one holds an open conch shell (or any other large marine snail shell) to the ear, the ocean can be heard. This phenomenon is caused by the resonant cavity of the shell producing a form of pink noise from the surrounding background ambiance. In reality, the person is hearing their blood flow in the capillaries of their ears; the sound enters the shell and reverberates through the chambers before coming back. This sound can also be heard (though rather poorly) by covering one’s ear with one’s hand. The rushing sound is the flow of blood

Medicinal Uses:Bhasam [ashes of conch shell]: is used for the treatment of : loss of appetite, indigestion, peptic ulcers, dueodenal ulcers, hyperacidity, bronchitis, hepatospleenomegaly, Gulma, asthma, cough, respiratory disorders.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_herbs_and_minerals_in_Ayurveda
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conch

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