Conchs of different sizes with beautiful stains and stripes scattered on beaches and river banks are beautiful sights. You might have also heard the sound of conch (shankh) blowing in Hindu temples. The size of conchs varies between very small and big. Some of these conchs can be seen only through magnifying glass. There are bigger ones with sizes measuring more than one meter. Conch is a common name applied to a group of sea snails or their shells. The word ‘conch’ has an Indian origin. It is formed from the Sanskrit word ” shanka”.
Conchs are the body shells of aquatic creatures called mollusks. Around 1,00,000 species of mollusks have been identified by scientists. Bigger the size of the mollusk, bigger and harder the body shell. The shell is made up of calcium carbonate or lime. The mollusk collects lime from sea water and deposits it in the outer shell. When the mollusk dies, the shell gets detached. Shells float and some of them get deposited on sea shores.
There are three layers in a shell. The outer layer is a smooth material without any lime content. It is called chitin. The next layer is made up of calcium carbonate. The third layer consists of many thin layers made up of chitin and calcium carbonate.
Conchs vary in color, size and design. Different colors, stains and stripes make the shells attractive. The designs and colors are formed from certain colorful materials present in the glands of the mollusk.
The conchs act as a protective cover for the mollusk. Men have found out many uses for the conchs. In ancient periods, conchs were used as coins. Conch shells are used as wind instruments. Small conchs find their place in necklaces and decorations in homes. Small shells are used to make buttons. Lime stones are formed from the shell deposits on the sea bed.