Category Archives: Seashells

All about seashells.

seashells

Collecting Shells in the Heat of a Florida Summer

It’s summer in Florida and not my favorite time of year. We go out on the boat about once a week, and it’s been high tide at the times we recently traveled the waterways. High tide means fewer beaches and exposed sand out in the river. The normal places to find big living conchs, like the horse conch, are under water at high tide and more difficult to see.

seashells
Tiger lucinia (or dosinia?), Spectral bittersweet clam (or venus clam?), white and black jingle shells.

The shells in my photo above confuse me. Many shells look A LOT ALIKE… So sometimes I am guessing as to the exact name.  The flat white shell with concentric rings is probably a Dosinia, but the Tiger lucinia is almost identical looking – except that my reference book says that the underside can be pink and yellow.  The shell I found is white underneath – it’s the one with the crack in the shell.

The jingle shells are pretty easy to recognize.  Their thin shells remind me of the mineral mica.

At high tide, island beaches become scarce and small, but there are still plenty of hermit crabs scurrying around in their beautiful crown shells, pear shells and shark’s eyes in the shallow water offshore.
My little video here is of a big Tulip shell inhabited by a hermit crab. I don’t know which type of tulip it is because the shell is black and covered with barnacles. This is only one of the many hermit crabs I found near the shore.

This is a screenshot of the temperature where I live at 7:14 in the evening… as you can see it FEELS LIKE 100!  So at noon, you can just imagine the oppressive heat… it’s why we don’t go out on the boat all that much these days.   The heat and humidity here in Florida is stupid.  And there is little relief when evening arrives.

florida heat index
7:14 at night and it feels like 100 degrees!

Being right on the water means a sea breeze can cool things off, and my favorite time to visit the beach is later in the day. I don’t live on the beach, but I live close enough to visit any time.
However, I do look forward to Fall, when it will be less crowded and less humid on and near the water.

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lightning whelk mollusk shell

Real Live Lightning Whelk Mollusk

The lightning whelk seashell is one of my favorites, with it’s stripes and long shell opening. It can grow to quite a big shell also. I have seen many of these shells, and have some in my collection, but this is the first time I have found a live mollusk inside a lightning whelk shell.

I have a little video below.

lightning whelk shell
Living Lightning Whelk

This shell had a particularly white spire – top swirl – and there was no hermit crab inside. Honestly, I had expected to see one when I found the shell moving around on the soft sand of the river bottom.
lightning whelk mollusk shell

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hermit crab in seashell

Hermit Crabs and Why They Must Fight For Those Seashell Homes!

hermit crab in seashell
Tiny Hermit Crab at Beach

If you read this blog, you have probably grown tired of me talking about hermit crabs, but here I go again!   Usually I am complaining that every awesome shell I come across out in the backwater is inhabited by a hermit crab.

This time I am going to tell (and show) you just how crazy things can get when hermit crabs fight for those seashell homes. It’s a crab vs. crab world down under the sea.

First of all, if you know next to nothing about crabs, here’s a bit of info.

Hermit crabs are not like regular crabs you find along the beach.  We don’t eat them.  Regular crabs scurry across the sand without taking their home along on their back.  It’s difficult to ever see the entire body of the hermit crab, as it is usually hidden within a shell.  A hermit crab will “hang” out of the shell sometimes (like in the photo above), but he will not come all the way out.  If you are lucky enough to be present when he swaps his old shell for a new one, you can get a quick glimpse of the back end of his body.

That shell it carries with it used to belong to a snail – land, or marine.  The hermit crab did not make the shell he lives in, and will stay in it only as long as he fits well inside.   Once the fit is too tight, he will have to find another shell to occupy.  His life depends on it.  The shell will have to be already empty… they don’t kill snails or mollusks to take a shell.  And they don’t fight other hermit crabs that are already inside a shell.

hermit crabs

Imagine that your present home will have to be abandoned as you grow.  You can’t stop growing, so it’s a constant hunt for a new place to live.  Without a shell to hide in, a hermit crab’s life is in peril.

In this NatGeo video, deceptively entitled “Hermit Crab vs. Conch”, a large Horse Conch chases down a tulip snail (banded tulip) and digests it. But the main story is about the hermit crabs who need to find new and larger real estate for their growing bodies. They realize that the horse conch will spit out the left over shell when he’s done eating the snail and they all want that house!

Did you see the shells those hermit crabs are scurrying around in? One was a pear whelk (yellow shell), and one was a shaped like a shark’s eye, or moon snail.

Here’s another amazing video of a hermit crab changing shells, but this one takes her “friends” with her!  Smart creature!  (This shell looks like some kind of knobbed triton.)

You may wonder why the crab doesn’t just find a big shell to live in so he won’t have to worry about trading out his home.  That won’t work because if the shell is too big, he can’t carry it around as easily.

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(Photo credits: Pixabay)

various Florida seashells

Found Some Great Shells, But Not On the Beach

new fishing pier
New Fishing Pier

My son and I headed over to the beach today, which is an unusual thing for us to do on the weekend.   Weekends are too busy.  We did go early, and still hit traffic, but it was a lot of fun. I love living so close to the seashore.

I’ve been debating on whether or not to buy a year pass for Smyrna Dunes Park. It’s an awesome place to walk with nice boardwalks that lead out to the beach on all sides of the peninsula. The cost is $20 for county residents and it’s $10 for each visit. If I go twice I will have paid for the pass. But… the pass is only good from now until the end of the year… not a full year, really. Still, it seems worth it because it’s a wonderful place to visit.

At 9Am on a Saturday the place was packed with cars! The woman who put the sticker on my car (yup, I bought the pass) said it’s turtle season (and the beach doesn’t open until 8am) so the surfers come here to surf early in the morning.

It’s also a place where everyone goes to walk their dog! Almost everyone we saw had a dog…. or 2 or 3 with them!   We saw all kinds of dogs…. from Corgi’s and Shepherds, to big and small Poodles and mutts .  Even so, the place is clean as can be. Locals respect the area and dutifully clean up after themselves.

The boardwalk is being replaced, so the first part is torn down and you must walk in the sand. I assume they will do the second part after the first part is finished, but I don’t know.

construction
Construction on Dunes Walkway

No matter. It’s still a wonderful place to visit. They have a new long fishing pier (see it in my first photo above) and my son and I went there first. He has a new metal detector and is dying to find buried treasure. So while he searched for treasure I cooled off in the wonderful ocean water.  It was clear and refreshing.  Fabulous!

little coquina shells in beach sand
Little coquina shells in beach sand

Of course, I also kept my eyes open for seashells. I saw some of the usual arks and many tiny coquina in the sand. Found an orange jingle shell, a bit of coral, and a little crab climbing up one of the pier’s pylons.

little crab
Little crab climbing up the dock pylon

The best shells I found were not on the beach though, they were up near the construction site!  Look at this wonderful Lettered Olive!  It’s small, but so pretty once I rinsed the dirt off.

lettered olive shell
Lettered Olive Seashell – 1.25 inches

Yup… I found this Lettered Olive and Banded Tulip along the fence which blocks people from entering the construction area. All that digging moved the shells around I guess, and there was not a single hermit crab to be found!

Hallelujah..!

The tulip shell is not in great shape. It’s encrusted with something that is gradually flaking off. It may end up being sorta pretty.  The bands tell me it’s not the True Tulip like I’ve found before, but the Banded Tulip.
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I also got this little gem of a shell, even though it’s somewhat broken, I love it.  I think it might be a little Knobbed Whelk.
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On the way back to the mainland we had to wait for a boat to go by and the traffic was building while the north causeway bridge was lifted.

bridge up at north causeway
Bridge up for tall boat to pass

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lettered olive with other seashells

Why So Many Black Seashells?

Seashells come in many lovely colors, but it’s odd to find all black seashells. Certain shells have dark lines or spots and are made that way by the snail inside, but this is different. One day while collecting shells, I found an unusual number of all-black shells.

Sometimes out in the wild a living shell, or shell still under the water, will be covered in a dark, sometimes fuzzy, coating. That is the periostracum, or skin, which creates an outer layer over the shell. I have a horse conch which I cleaned, but never removed all that layer. The shell underneath was still light colored.

But some shells, like these Jingle shells, are all black.   They may have begun as some pretty orange or white color, but have turned black due to the sediment where they were buried. It has to do with sulfur content in the sand, or something. I am no scientist, so I won’t try to explain the process – I would just confuse myself and you! My message here is that they don’t begin black.
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These jingle shells were collected near Ponce Inlet on the East coast of Florida.  You can see that one of them (in the photo above) is just beginning to turn from it’s light orange color.  It may not have been buried as long as the others.  Constant wave action is bound to unearth shells and eventually wash them ashore.

Below, I have worn oyster shells and piece of something that was probably a whelk among the ridged jingle shells.
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The partial whelk shell below has also turned black.  These shells do not start out this way.  Whelks are generally tan with brown stripes or light in color.  The one in my photo below is probably either a Lightning Whelk or Knobbed Whelk.  It’s too broken for me to tell.

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Shells are often not pretty when found. Especially if they are found in the water. They can be dark or coated with green, with barnacles or oysters attached. Shells found up on the sand can be white, or much lighter in color that they were when inhabited. The sun can bleach them. This makes seashell identification harder. It can be just as difficult when collecting shells that have turned totally black.