Triplofusus giganteus

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Giant horse conch
Pleuroploca gigantea.jpg
Triplofusus giganteus (Kiener, 1840) in situ, note the orange soft parts
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Mollusca
Class: Gastropoda
(unranked): clade Caenogastropoda

clade Hypsogastropoda
clade Neogastropoda

Superfamily: Buccinoidea
Family: Fasciolariidae
Genus: Triplofusus
Species: T. giganteus
Binomial name
Triplofusus giganteus
(Kiener, 1840)
  • Fasciolaria papillosa auct.
  • Fasciolaria papillosa f. elongata Strebel, 1911
  • Fasciolaria papillosa f. reevei Jonas, 1850
  • Fasciolaria papillosa juvenis Strebel, 1911
  • Fasciolaria reevei Jonas, 1850
  • Pleuroploca gigantea Kiener, 1840
  • Triplofusus papillosusG.B. Sowerby I

Triplofusus giganteus, previously known as Pleuroploca gigantea, common name the Florida horse conch, is a species of extremely large predatory subtropical and tropical sea snail, a marine gastropod mollusc in the family Fasciolariidae, the spindle snails, tulip snails and their allies.[1][2]

Although known as a horse conch, this is not a true conch, as it is not in the family Strombidae.

This species is the largest gastropod in the American waters,[3] and one of the largest univalves in the world.


The animal can retract the soft parts entirely into the shell and close it with the operculum. The soft parts are bright orange in color.

Shell description

Triplofusus giganteus at the National Museum (Prague)

This species shell length can reach 24 inches (600 mm).[3]

The outline of the shell is somewhat fusiform, with a long siphonal canal, and having up to 10[3] whorls. Its sculpture present several spiral cords and axial ribs, some of which can form knobs on the whorls' shoulders.[3]

The shell color is bright orange in very young individuals. The shell often becomes greyish white to salmon-orange when adult, with a light tan or dark brown periostracum.[3]


This large sea snail is found along the Atlantic coast of the Americas from the U.S. state of North Carolina to the north, to Yucatán in the Gulf of Mexico to the south.[3]


A horse conch feeding on the queen conch, Eustrombus gigas, in Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida


This species dwells on sand, weed and mud flats from the low intertidal to shallow subtidal zones,[3] in 20 foot (6 m) deep water.

Feeding habits

Triplofusus giganteus is a carnivorous predatory species, and feeds on other large marine gastropods, including the tulip shell (Fasciolaria tuplipa), the lightning whelk (Busycon perversum), and the queen conch (Eustrombus gigas) as well as some Murex species.[4][5] It may also present cannibalistic behaviour, feeding on smaller conspecific individuals.[4] It has been observed (in an aquarium setting) to eat small hermit crabs of the species Clibanarius vittatus.

Human use

Modern times

The U.S. state of Florida declared it the state seashell in 1969. The shell is popular with shell collectors partly because of its great size.

Archaeological and anthropological uses

In classic Mayan art, the Horse Conch is shown being utilised in many ways including as paint and ink holders for elite scribes, and also as a bugle or trumpet.

In southern Florida, Native Americans, including the Calusa and Tequesta, used the horse conch to make several types of artifact. The whole shell, or more commonly only the columella, was attached to a wooden handle and used as a hammer or woodworking tool. The body whorl was used as a drinking cup. The columella was also used to make plummets or sinkers.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Triplofusus giganteus (Kiener, 1840).  Retrieved through: World Register of Marine Species on 25 August 2012.
  2. Rosenberg, G., F. Moretzsohn, and E. F. García. 2009. Gastropoda (Mollusca) of the Gulf of Mexico, Pp. 579–699 in Felder, D.L. and D.K. Camp (eds.), Gulf of Mexico–Origins, Waters, and Biota. Biodiversity. Texas A&M Press, College Station, Texas.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Leal, J.H. (2002). Gastropods. p. 99-147. In: Carpenter, K.E. (ed.). The living marine resources of the Western Central Atlantic. Volume 1: Introduction, molluscs, crustaceans, hagfishes, sharks, batoid fishes, and chimaeras. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fishery Purposes and American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists Special Publication No. 5. 1600p. PDF
  4. 4.0 4.1 Wells F. E., Walker D. I. & Jones D. S. (eds.) (2003). Food of giants – field observations on the diet of Syrinx aruanus (Linnaeus, 1758) (Turbinellidae) the largest living gastropod. The Marine Flora and Fauna of Dampier, Western Australia. Western Australian Museum, Perth.
  5. Toller, W.; Lewis, K-A. (2003). Queen Conch Strombus gigas (PDF). U.S.V.I. Animal Fact Sheet. 19. U.S.V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources Division of Fish and Wildlife.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Rosenberg, G. 1992. Encyclopedia of Seashells. Dorset: New York. 224 pp. page(s): 91
  • Rosenberg, G., F. Moretzsohn, and E. F. García. 2009. Gastropoda (Mollusca) of the Gulf of Mexico, Pp. 579–699 in Felder, D.L. and D.K. Camp (eds.), Gulf of Mexico–Origins, Waters, and Biota. Biodiversity. Texas A&M Press, College Station, Texas.
  • Snyder M.A., Vermeij G.J. & Lyons W.G. (2012) The genera and biogeography of Fasciolariinae (Gastropoda, Neogastropoda, Fasciolariidae). Basteria 76(1-3): 31-70

External links