For the Indian Ritual Conch, see Shankha. For other uses, see Conch (disambiguation).
Large shell with flared lip, viewed facing the opening, which is glossy and tinted with shades of pink and apricot
Apertural view of an adult shell of the queen conch Lobatus gigas, from Trinidad & Tobago
A shell of the Florida crown conch Melongena corona inhabited by a hermit crab

Conch (/ˈkɒn/ or sometimes /ˈkɒŋk/)[1] is a common name that is applied to a number of different medium to large-sized sea snails or their shells. The term generally applies to large snails whose shell has a high spire and a noticeable siphonal canal (in other words, the shell comes to a noticeable point at both ends).

In North America, a conch is often identified as a queen conch, found off the coast of Florida. Queen conches are valued for fish bait, and are also known as seafood.[2]

The group of conchs that are sometimes referred to as "true conchs" are marine gastropod molluscs in the family Strombidae, specifically in the genus Strombus and other closely related genera. For example, see Lobatus gigas, the queen conch, and Laevistrombus canarium, the dog conch.

Many other species are also often called "conch", but are not at all closely related to the family Strombidae, including Melongena species (family Melongenidae), and the horse conch Pleuroploca gigantea (family Fasciolariidae). Species commonly referred to as conchs also include the sacred chank or more correctly shankha shell (Turbinella pyrum) and other Turbinella species in the family Turbinellidae.


The original word is from Tamil Sangu which mean spiral in Tamil. The Conch had a major role in Tamil civilization where it was used as an instrument to call for attention of a meeting. When the Portuguese first encountered India in the Bengal region and the western coast, the local dialects had an "o" pronunciation for the middle "a" and a softening of the initial "sh" and final "kh". The word was pronounced locally as "sonka" which in Portuguese was transliterated as "çoncha" (with very similar pronunciation as "sonka") and alternatively without the final "a". The English word is a spelling pronunciation of the Portuguese word.


A group of large eastern conchs or whelks of the species Busycotypus canaliculatus for sale at a California seafood market

The meat of conchs is eaten raw in salads, or cooked, as in burgers, chowders, fritters, and gumbos. All parts of the conch meat are edible.[3] Some people, however, find only the white meat appetizing.

In the West Indies (Jamaica in particular), local people eat conch in soups, stews and curries. Restaurants all over the islands serve this particular meat. In The Bahamas, conch is typically served in the form of fritters, eaten raw or as salads. Conch is considered the country's main dish. In the Dominican Republic, Grenada, and Haiti, conch is commonly eaten in curries or in a spicy soup. It is locally referred to as lambi. In The Turks and Caicos Islands, the Annual Conch Festival is held in November each year, located at the Three Queen's Bar/Restautant in Blue Hills. Local restaurateurs compete for the best and most original conch dishes, that are then judged by international chefs. Free sampling of the dishes follows the judging; along with those festivities, other competitions, events, and music performances occur well into the evening.[4] In Puerto Rico, conch is served as a ceviche, often called ensalada de carrucho (conch salad), consisting of raw conch marinated in lime juice, olive oil, vinegar, garlic, green peppers, and onions. It is also used to fill empanadas.

In Panama, conch is known as cambombia and is often served as a ceviche known as ceviche de cambombia consisting of raw conch marinated in lime juice, chopped onions, finely chopped habaneros, and often vinegar.

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

Musical instruments

Main article: Conch (instrument)

Conch shells can be used as wind instruments. They are prepared by cutting a hole in the spire of the shell near the apex, and then blowing into the shell as if it were a trumpet, as in blowing horn. Sometimes a mouthpiece is used, but some shell trumpets are blown without one.

Various species of large marine gastropod shells can be turned into "blowing shells", but some of the best-known species used are the sacred chank or shankha Turbinella pyrum, the Triton's trumpet Charonia tritonis, and the queen conch Strombus gigas.


Many different kinds of mollusks can produce pearls. Pearls from the queen conch, S. gigas, are rare and have been collectors' items since Victorian times.[5] Conch pearls occur in a range of hues, including white, brown and orange, with many intermediate shades, but pink is the colour most associated with the conch pearl, such that these pearls are sometimes referred to simply as "pink pearls".[5] In some gemological texts, non-nacreous gastropod pearls used to be referred to as "calcareous concretions" because they were "porcellaneous" (shiny and ceramic-like in appearance), rather than "nacreous" (with a pearly lustre), sometimes known as "orient". The GIA and CIBJO now simply use the term "pearl"—or, where appropriate, the more descriptive term "non-nacreous pearl"—when referring to such items,[6][7] and under Federal Trade Commission rules, various mollusc pearls may be referred to as "pearls" without qualification.[8]

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 that 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

A drawing of the shell of Strombus alatus, the Florida fighting conch

In Hinduism conch shell is used as a trumpet after Prayers and other rituals. It is also considered a sacred emblem of some Hindu Gods.


Ancient Peru

The Moche people of ancient Peru worshipped the sea and often depicted conch shells in their art.[14]


Quetzalcoatl, the Mexican god of wind and learning, wears around his neck the "wind breastplate" ehecailacocozcatl, "the spirally voluted wind jewel" made of a conch shell.[15]


Buddhism has also incorporated the conch shell, Turbinella pyrum, as one of the Eight Auspicious Symbols.


Main article: Shankha
A Hindu priest blowing a shankha (a shell of Turbinella pyrum) during a puja

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

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.There is a n interesting story behind the origin of a "the shankha" or conch shell.According to Hindu mythology, Devas (Gods) and Asuras (Demons) once decided to churn the ocean in order to get a special divine nectar. This divine nectar also known as "Amrit" was known to give immortality to whoever drank it. All the Gods were on one side of it and the Demons were on the other end. The Samudra Manthan produced a number of things from the Ocean. One of the first things to come out of it was lethal poison called Halahala.Everyone was terrified as the poison was potent enough to destroy entire creation. So they went to Lord Shiva for protection and he consumed the poison to safeguard the universe. Lord Shiva took the poison in his mouth but did not swallow it. Later some additional objects came out of the ocean like Lakshmi (goddess of prosperity and beauty), Goddess of wine, Moon, divine Nymphs like Rambha- and Menakha, Uchhaishravas the divine seven headed White horse, Kaustubha a jewel, Parijata the celestial tree, Surabhi the cow of plenty, Airavata a white elephant, Dhanus a mighty bow and many more such things were produced. "Shankha" or conch shell also was one of divine objects that was obtained from Samudra manthan.

Also, the sound of the conch is believed to drive away the evil spirits. The blowing of the conch or "the shankha" needs a tremendous power and respiratory capacity. Hence, blowing it daily helps keep the lungs healthy.

A newly wed Bengali bride wears bangles called Shakha Paula, made from coral and conch shell powder. They have been a part of Bengali custom and tradition. It is believed that in ancient era, the Bengali farming community resided near the river. They collected conch shells and powdered to create bangles. They also used red coral for the bangles. They gifted these beautiful bangles to their wives as they could not afford ivory bangles.They were also known as poor man's ivory as they were cheap substitute for ivory bangles.[10]

Literature and the oral tradition

a still, quiet crane
shines on a lotus leaf
like a conch shell lying
on a flawless emerald plate.

(Hāla's gāhā sattasaī 1.4; tr. M. Selby)

See also


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