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Animal, Vegetable or Mineral? Mystery Egg 1

This is a legacy story from an earlier version of our website. It may contain some formatting issues and broken links.

It’s Easter week and unfortunately you can’t visit the Booth Museum when we would normally have plenty of fun activities for you. So we thought we would do three special additions of our usual Animal, Vegetable or Mineral? quiz online to show you some unusual animal eggs, made by some pretty incredible animals.

These are all objects we have behind the scenes at the Booth Museum! Here is Mystery Egg number 1 of 3, look out for the others over the next few days.

Mystery Egg 1

Mystery egg 1 Andrea Westmoreland from DeLand, United States / CC BY-SA (

This unusual string of egg cases is made by a marine animal and can be found on the beaches of the US. Can you guess the animal that made it?

Clue 1

You might get an animal that makes a shell like this in your garden.

Clue 2

They make shells like in the photo below… do these look familiar?

Mystery egg clue. Photo by Pete / CC BY-SA (

And the answer is… Drum roll please!

The knobbed whelk, Busycon carica. 

These marine snails are quite large, larger than your average garden snail weighing in at around 1.1lbs (around 500g or half a bag of sugar) and measuring up to 30cm. Females are typically larger than males, scientists think this may be due to the fact that some of these snails can start off as males when they are young and then change into females as they get older. But their size is nothing on the largest marine snail in the world, the Australian trumpet snail, or giant whelk, Syrinx aruanus, which measures up to 70cm!

Knobbed whelks are carnivorous animals with clams, oysters and mussels among their preferred meals. To feed, they use their large muscular foot to hold their prey in place and use their shell edge to prize open their food’s shell. They can also secrete corrosive chemicals from their proboscis (tube mouth) which helps them to drill a hole in the shell of their prey to reach the soft juicy flesh inside – yum!

When they are ready to mate in spring, females lay a string of up to 40 egg cases which are anchored at one end to the sand. Each capsule contains around 100 fertilised baby snail eggs inside. When they hatch around 13 months later, the juviniles look like tiny replicas of the adults – so cute!

Living in the U.K. I won’t be jetting off to the U.S. anytime soon, but not to worry, egg cases of the common whelk, Buccinum undatum can be seen right here on beaches of the UK! You might have even seen one on during your daily exercise if you are lucky enough to live by the sea!

Sarah Smith / Egg cases – common whelk

Come and see some impressive shells made by other sea snails at the Booth Museum when we re-open. 

Grace Brindle, Collections Assistant