“In some South Pacific cultures, a speaker holds a conch shell as a symbol of temporary position of authority. Leaders must understand who holds the conch that is, who should be listened to and when.” Max de Pree
Generally conch is used to describe large sea snails whose shell has a high spire and has an end on both sides, but in fact it is a common name referring to different medium to large-sized sea snails or their shells. Conchs are marine gastropod molluscs in the Strombidae family, specifically the genus Strombus.
The specific species most commonly used for food is the queen conch, or pink-lipped conch, Strombus gigas, which can be found in warm waters of the Atlantic and the Caribbean from Florida to Brazil. Their shells have a bright colored pink lip which can reach a length of 12 to 13 inches. The operculum, the covering of the shell opening, is a claw like structure, which the conch uses to dig into the sand and push itself along the bottom. They are plant eaters and can live up to 25 years.
Conch has been a popular food source throughout the Caribbean for centuries, long before Christopher Columbus arrived there. The Arawaks eat them and carved the spiral shells into various tools, musical horns and ceremonial objects. They are still an important food source for natives of Haiti and the Bahamas, who use it in soups, stews and salads.
It is illegal to take live conch in U.S. waters, where they are an endangered species, so most conch now comes from the various Caribbean islands, including the Bahamas (where it is sometimes called ‘hurricane ham’). Also here they are becoming scarce which pushes the price up.
The world’s only commercial conch farm is Conch World located at Heaving Down Rock, at the end of the Leeward Highway, on the island of Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands, British West Indies. The Conch Farm grows Queen conchs from eggs to adults.
The Conch Republic was established by secession of the Florida Keys from the United States of America, on April 23rd, 1982 in response to a United States Border Patrol Blockade setup on highway U.S.1 at Florida City just to the north of the Florida Keys. Proponents of the Conch Republic see themselves as both Conchs and Americans and they hold dual citizenship.
a type of shellfish that lives in a large shell which has the form of a spiral; also : the shell of a conch (source: Merriam Webster)
The English word conch and the Spanish word concha comes from Latin concha, shellfish/mollusk, from Greek konkhe, mussel/shell, from the Proto Indo European root *konkho-, mussel/shell.
Dutch schelp comes from Middle Dutch schulpe/scholpe, shell, from Old Dutch skolpr, hollow chisel.
Italian conchiglia comes from Latin conchilium, from Greek kogchylion, diminutive of kogchyle, conch.
Conch in other languages:
Dutch: de schelp
Spanish: la concha
Italian: la conchiglia di strombo