Common Whelk The common whelk or the waved buccinum, Buccinum undatum, occurs in European waters and is widely distributed throughout the Mediterranean Sea to the as far east as Turkey. It lives on sand and mud seabeds at depths of 10–200 meters where it preys on other bivalves such as mussels and cockles.
The common whelk is the largest European buccinid, growing to a length of 120 millimeters. The pointed spire of the shell rises only slightly above the whorls which are sculpted with fine, spiral grooves and transverse ridges. There may be as many as 12 smooth whorls forming a conical to the ovate shell with a blunt apex and a wide aperture. On the inside, all whorls are white or bluish-white. The first three whorls have single varix, a smooth ridge on the upper surface of the whorl which extends from the suture. The outer lip is blackish with the inner edge of the black part strengthened by an internal rib. The columella is smooth or weakly ridged inside.
The operculum is oval, yellowish to grayish brown, darker on the inside, and covered by several project scales. The foot is fleshy pink or pale grayish, sometimes with dark spots. The eye stalks are blackish to bluish-gray with orange tips. The tentacles have a single series of minute suckers on their inner surfaces and elongated outer surfaces fringed with short, fleshy projections.
The egg capsules of Buccinum undatum are rather long and slender and contain about 80 eggs each. The larvae of the common whelk develop quickly, taking only 30 to 45 days between hatching and crawling out of the water as fully-grown juvenile snails. Hence this species is often referred to as the "summer snail".
The common whelk is a predator, feeding by inserting its long proboscis into other bivalves, such as mussels and cockles, to extract the soft parts. The adult snails mostly feed on live mussels or dead fish or offal. In turn, this species is preyed upon by several predators including shorebirds, crustaceans, and fish.
Global common whelk production
The common whelk is one of the most important commercial species in the world. It is harvested for food and used as bait in many fisheries. The global production of common whelk was estimated to be about 1.3 million tonnes in 2016. The majority of the world's production comes from China, followed by Japan and Korea.
The common whelk is a relatively large species of marine snail. It can grow to a size of up to 30 cm in length and 1 kg in weight. The shell of the common whelk is spiral in shape and has a distinctive brown or orange colouration. The common whelk is found in many different parts of the world, including the coasts of Europe, North America, and Asia.
The common whelk is harvested for food and used as bait in many fisheries. The meat of the common whelk is considered to be a delicacy in some cultures. In China, the common whelk is often boiled or steamed and then eaten with soy sauce or vinegar. In Japan, the common whelk is used as an ingredient in soup.
The global production of common whelk was estimated to be about 1.3 million tonnes in 2016. The majority of the world's production comes from China, followed by Japan and Korea. The high demand for common whelk meat has resulted in the overfishing of this species in some areas. As a result, the common whelk is now considered to be at risk of extinction.