The Coffee melampus shell is small and roundish. The one I photographed is brown in color with horizontal stripes. The hermit crab which was carrying the shell, was hidden down under the large crown conch. It’s one of those small shells which would be easy to overlook while beach-combing.
The living crown conchs seemed to meet up just greet each other, so I began taking video with my phone. As I watched another shell began to move out from under the larger conch. A striped hermit crab was carrying it as he crawled across the top of the conch. I took a photo to bring home where I could study the shell better and discover what it is called.
As I flipped through my seashell ID book, nothing jumped out at me. There were no small roundish brown shells. Then as I was trying to identify another tiny shell I’d found days later, I came across the picture of the Melampus snail. It looked to be the same shape, even if the shells in my book were not brown.
Two living crown conch snails say “hello” and a hermit crab emerges in a Coffee Melampus shell.
At the Matthews-Bailey Shell Museum site they say that this shell belongs to a land snail – in the family Ellobiidae. However, my seashell book lists this as a sea snail in the family Marginellidae saying that the two families are related.
Hermit crabs can exist on both dry land and underwater, but can’t stay out on dry land long. They need the saltwater to survive. He definitely could have found this snail shell on dry land and brought it into the sea.