Collecting the Popular Scallop Seashell

Scallops are delicious. They are one of my favorite seafoods. Their shell is also a favorite to collect.  Some of them can be very pretty, and they are one of the few shells that come in shades of maroon and pink.

Scallop shells look like fans.  Most types have bumpy ridges and extended flaps at the top.  The flaps, or wings, or ears, or whatever you want to call them, are prominent on most scallops.  The Kitten’s Paw would be the exception.

Here in Florida we can find many varieties of the scallop.  One of the most unique looking is the Kitten’s Paw (Plicatula gibbosa).  It’s a tiny shell which is a bit thick and bumpy and irregular.  The ones I have collected came from the Sanibel Island area.  They are off-white with orange, or sometimes yellow, coloring with cross-hatch type markings.  I have never found one on the East coast of Florida where I live, but my reference book claims this scallop lives all around the state.

kitten paw seashells
Kitten’s Paw Scallop Shells – Max size 1.2 inches

The Atlantic Calico Scallop (Argopecten gibbus) is probably the most commonly found scallop shell in Florida. I’ve collected them on the west coast and east.

scallop shells
Calico Scallops with one Cross-barred Venus clam shell (brown stripes) which I found at Sanibel Island

The brightly colored scallop shells in my photos above were collected on the West / Gulf coast of Florida. In comparison, the shells in my photo below (Calico shells only) were collected on the East coast. Shells in the Gulf area tend to be more well preserved as they are not churned up in the waves like on the Atlantic side.

scallop and clam shells
This is one of the rarely found scallops I’ve collected from my area on the East coast of Florida
scallop shells
Calico Scallops and Kitten’s Paw Shells


Other Types of Scallops

  • Atlantic bay scallops (Argopecten irradians) – can be larger than the calico and will reach 4 inches across.  They are less colorful than calico also, and will be white, orange or grayish brown.  These used to be very common all around Florida and now are not.
  • Scaly scallops (Caribachlamys sentis) – are small (1.6 inches) and more pointed.  Their outstanding characteristic is that one of the front flaps is very large.  (The link also shows other types of scallops which I mention in this post.)
  • Zigzag scallops (Euvola ziczac) – are flat shells (top valve) with colorful zig-zagging colors of purple, pink or orange. They can be up to 4 inches wide.  The bottom part of the shell is rounded like a regular shell. (See a good photo in that link.)
  • Round-rib scallops – look similar to the Zigzag and also flat, but their ribs are wider. They are smaller than the Zigzag at max 2 inches.
  • Rough scallops – This type is rarely found on beaches. Usually they are solid colored and only grow to 1.5 inches. They have rough ribs, with tiny bumps, hence the name.
  • The coveted Lion’s Paw is a scallop shell with extra wide ridges.  It is not commonly found anywhere here in Florida.  The best chance to collect one would probably over by Sanibel Island, or along the Gulf Coast.

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