Recently I decided to clean up my seashells. Honestly, I’ve never made a big production out of cleaning my seashells – just rinsed them well in fresh water and let them dry. I have collected a few good ones while out on the Gheenoe and the few times I’ve been over to the beach.
Finally I got my Florida driver’s license… which was a bigger ordeal than it needed to be, but it means I can buy a beach pass and get a fishing license. Hallelujah! It’s a little thing, but it means I can go to the beach whenever I want as a resident and pay one low fee for the rest of the year.
Okay, back to the shells. After soaking my seashells in a bleach and water solution – I didn’t measure it, but just added a little bleach to a pail full of water – over night, they are looking clean. They also look a bit duller. The next time I get to Lowe’s I will get some mineral oil which is supposed to make them brighter again.
I have two pretty crown conchs, which are hard to find without a hermit crab living inside, and one had a tiny shell wedged in the opening. I was trying to figure out what type of shell the tiny one was, when I decided to take it out for a better look.
My best guess is that it’s a broken horse conch. The Florida horse conch has a long spire like this little guy, but the tiny shell is missing the bottom half. In fact I have a large horse conch shell which I found out on the Indian River which I am in the process of cleaning. I don’t know if I will ever get all the black stuff off it, but I’m trying.
This is a picture of my spiny jewelbox seashells. I don’t have many and they are simply call Spiny Jewelbox (Arcinella cornuta). They are white with spikes or ridges (if the spikes have worn down) and the inside is pinkish. These are found on both Florida coasts, but mainly along the Gulf Coast and Keyes area. Many may not have spines because they get broken and worn off by the action of the sea.
This shell is a bi-valve, which means it comes in two parts. It is rare to find any bi-valves that are still attached along the beach because the action of the waves tends to break the shells apart. Also, some bi-valves live attached to something, like wharf pilings or rocks, and that part stays put as the upper half may break off. This is the case when you find a kittenpaw shell.
Other types of Jewelbox shells, which I may have collected at some point when I had no idea what I was picking up, look a bit different than mine. In fact, some do not have spines or spikes, but are still rather bumpy looking. The Leafy Jewelbox (Chama macerophylla) has many flattened, thin ridges (unless they are worn – then they are bumpy) and can be colorful purple and orange or bright yellow.
There is also a Corrugate Jewelbox (or Little Corrugated Jewelbox) which is small, growing only to around one inch in size. It is a flatter, bumpy shell without such distinct ribs as in the spiny variety. Both of these can be collected on most Florida coastlines, although you may have to search harder on the east coast where shells are more sparse. These shells are small, whereas the others can be up to three inches in size.
The Atlantic Left-Handed Jewelbox (Pseudochama radians) is also known as the False Jewelbox and I really don’t know much about that one except that it is found from North Carolina to Brazil.
If you live on the west coast of the U. S., you may find the Clear Jewel Box (Charma arcana) seashell along your coastline. It looks a lot like the Leafy Jewel Box except that it is not as colorful but may be tinged with pink or orange.
What are the spines and “leafy parts” for? It helps protect them from other seashell predators who may want to drill into the shell and eat what is inside. Yup, that’s what they do!
The Florida fighting conch shell is a thick and heavy feeling shell. It can vary in color from almost white on the outside to brownish purple. Contrary to it’s name, it does not like to pick fights. The animal inside uses it’s long foot to “hop” and pull itself along in the sand or to try to escape the hand that has captured it.
Below is a coloring page, free for you to use (personal use only – no selling), of the Fighting conch. Click the picture and print it out and enjoy.
The Whelk shells of Florida are widely collected and they can be some of the largest shells you’ll find on Florida beaches. (Don’t collect them if they are inhabited.)
The Knobbed Whelk (Busycon carica), Channeled Whelk (Busycon canaliculatum), Pear Whelk (Busycon spiratum) and Lightning Whelk (Busycon contrarium) can all be quite large – the Pear is the smallest. Common characteristics include their long shape with a wide opening down the length of the shell.
Of these four, the Pear Whelk is the smallest when full grown. It grows to a length of 5 1/2 inches. I have come across pear whelks out on the sandy flats while boating. I’ve seen them as yellow, gray and with brown splotches. They are usually inhabited by hermit crabs. Then I recently found one with a live snail inside. (2nd photo)
The Lightning Whelk is another one I find often in the backwater areas. It’s usually small like the pear whelk, but this one can grow to be 16 inches long. It is recognizable by it’s left-side opening.
This is a fairly new photo of the knobbed whelk. I discovered it in January just offshore on an island in the Indian River backwater. A hermit crab was living inside, so I got some photos and returned it to the water.
The channeled whelk is not a shell I have found in one piece. It grows to be 7.5 inches in length. The top spiral part of the shell differs from the other whelks because it looks extended, like someone pulled it out. The whorls on the other shells are tight and semi-flat.
This is the only channeled whelk I have found and even though it was very broken it turned out there was a hermit crab living in it! I had to take it back and return it to the water.
The Channeled whelk only lives along the northeastern coast of Florida to about halfway down the state. I guess that explains why I don’t see many of this kind of shell.
The Florida fighting conch shell is a thick, seemingly sturdy, shell. It is prevalent along the southern -or warm water- beaches. It is called a “fighting” conch (pronounced ‘konk’) because if you pick up a live one it extends a “leg” and trys to get away. It is not going quietly!! It gives the appearance of “hopping” as it pushes itself along.
The animal inside eats seaweed and they stick together in large colonies in the ocean sand.
Apparently they are great additions to a saltwater fish tank too, as they spend all their time cleaning up the sand. Read some posts (and see a photo of a live fighting conch)here. For more seashell photos and information visit Seashell Identification at Squidoo.