Scotch Bonnet (Phalium granulatum)

SHELL LENGTH: Approximately 4 inches (10.16 cm)

Not only is the Scotch Bonnet North Carolina's state shell, but this member of the helmet shell family was the first official state shell in the U.S. It is uncommon on beaches, especially whole specimens, but many can be found after storms. Ranging up to four inches, this egg-shaped white shell has reddish-brown spots circling the shell when alive, but is bleached or faded when washed up on shore. Ridges circle the shell, which are offset by grooves. This univalve has a pointed spire and a large aperture with a thick, toothed outer lip. When alive, this snail-like animal has tentacles, which are tactile organs that are used to find and eat sand dollars and sea urchins. They eat these animals by secreting a substance containing sulfuric acid, which dissolves the tests of these animals and exposes the flesh inside which is eaten.