|Sinistrofulgur perversum found in France, with the operculum in place|
The lightning whelk, scientific name Sinistrofulgur perversum, is an edible species of very large predatory sea snail or whelk, a marine gastropod mollusc in the family Busyconidae, the busycon whelks. This species has a left-handed or sinistral shell. It eats mostly bivalves.
There has been some disagreement about the correct scientific name for this species, which has been confused with Sinistrofulgur sinistrum Hollister, 1958, and Busycon contrarium (Conrad, 1840), which is an exclusively fossil species.
Lightning whelks can be found in the sandy or muddy substrate of shallow embayments.
This species shares many characteristics with another species, the knobbed whelk Busycon carica, but there are some important differences:
For thousands of years Native Americans used these animals as food, and used their shells for tools, ornaments, containers and to make jewelry, i.e. shell gorgets. They may have believed the sinistral nature of the lightning whelk shell made it a sacred object.
The lightning whelk is the State Shell of Texas.