By Erika, age 13

Conch-juvenile-300x225You’ve probably seen those big, beautiful white and beige shells with pink insides in a gift shop by the beach. Have you ever wondered about the creatures that lived inside the shells? What were they? How did they make such pretty shells? Never fear! Your questions are about to be answered.

Conchs are mollusks. A mollusk is an animal such as an octopus, a squid, or a snail. Conchs start out life as veligers which are microscopic, and they grow shells after one month. They continue to grow and at year four, they start to grow a lip on the outside of their shells. To tell the difference in gender, the conchs have to be hanging out of the shells and you can only tell based on genitalia.

In just about every one of their natural habitats except the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) they are endangered. Overfishing could lead to the extinction of the species because they are wanted for their meat and shells. They can live up to thirty years in the wild, assuming that they aren’t eaten, but they can live up to forty in captivity.

Conch-out-of-shell-300x225You can learn all of this from the one and only conch farm in the world, Caicos Conch Farm. They raise conch to make sure they don’t go extinct and to figure out more about their life cycle. To harvest them on the farm, they have to be at least four years old. In the wild, regulations state they have to be at least eight years old to ensure they have time to reproduce. The farm owns sixty-five acres in the water and ten acres on land. They raise the conchs on land for the first two years of their life, and in the water after that and have conchs up to fourteen years old. The owners of the farm have also started raising fish so they can breed them for the local restaurants.

Overall, they aren’t just a delicious food. Conchs are fascinating, snail-like creatures and they are endangered. Save the conch!