- Distinguishing characteristics: The rapa whelk has a round shell with a short spire and a large body whorl. The aperature or opening is large and oval-shaped. They have a distinctive orange color on the aperature and most shells have black veins that run through it.
In the Wild
- Habitat: Rapa whelks live on the burrow into the sandy bottom of the saltwater portions of the Bay.
- Diet: Rapa whelks are carnivores that typically feed on other mollusks such as oysters or mussels. Rapa whelks feed by surrounding its prey’s hinge and inserting its proboscis into the shell.
- Predators: Adult rapa whelks have very few natural predators. Blue crabs, turtles and other large predators can feed on
- Size: Rapa whelks can reach 6-7 inches long.
- Breeding: Rapa whelks lay egg cases in the summer monthes. It takes 4-6 weeks for larvae to settle to the bottom and begin developing a hard shell. Rapa whelks can begin reproducing by year two.
- Life Span: Rapa whelks can live longer than 10 years.
In the Aquatics Lab
- Diet: The rapa whelk at BTW is fed to frozen mussels twice a week.
- Size: The rapa whelk at BTW is about 5-6 inches.
- Quantity: There is only one rapa whelk at Booker T Washington.
- Virginia Regulations: At one point, there was a bounty on rapa whelks in Virginia because there was a fear of them wiping out the oyster populations since they are an invasive species from the Sea of Japan.
- Commercial Uses: There is not a well-developed market for whelks.