Tag Archives: shell collecting

Top Rare Seashell Finds in Florida

junonia seashell
The Rare Find – Junonia

The casual seashell collector gathers whatever looks good as they stroll along the shore, but some people are die hard searchers for that all elusive and fairly rare shell.  Here are three to keep in mind if you visit the Florida Gulf Coast area.

The Junonia (Scaphella junonia) is unmistakable with it’s ivory colored background that is covered with somewhat rectangular spots and splotches. According to my reference book, roughly one Junonia is found each day on Sanibel Island, Florida. This species lives in deep water on coral reefs off shore.

The Lion’s Paw shell (Nodipecten nodosus) can be as large as 6 inches across. It’s a scallop shell with bumpy ridges and bright coloring of deep orange or reddish orange. The ridges are wider than what is usually found on other scallop shells, and the shell can also be much larger.   (The common Kittenpaw shell also has wide ridges but is a much smaller shell, and is widely found on the beaches of Florida.)

The pretty little Scotch Bonnet (Phalium granulatum) shell is shaped somewhat like a ball and is lightly colored, in white or cream, with a thick “lip”.   The shell is textured with light horizontal grooves or checks pattern.  The largest Scotch Bonnet shells are no bigger than 4 inches.

The “i love shelling” blog lists these three shells as the Elite Three Shells to find on Sanibel and the writer should know – she lives there – and does a lot of shelling and blogging about her finds.

Mom, Look What I Found! Get the Bucket

shells in a glass bowl
A Bowl of Seashells

Children are just naturally inquisitive and at the beach they are bound to continuously run up to you with a new treasure in hand.  Mom, look what I found!  I always had a bucket ready to hold the shells, broken and whole, that my children had discovered while digging moats and building castles in the sand.  Children have an innocent and unique way of looking at everything.  They don’t bypass the ordinary as we adults might do, because everything to them is Continue reading Mom, Look What I Found! Get the Bucket

Finding Shells (and Other Creatures) on The East Coast of Florida

Busycon sinistrum Hollister, 1958 English: Lig...
Busycon sinistrum Hollister, 1958 English: Lightning whelk egg case at Sanibel Island in Lee County, Florida, U.S.A. With defensive purple dye. Français : Ponte de Busycon sinistrum, photographiée sur l’île Sanibel, en Floride (États-Unis). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sanibel and Captiva Islands on Florida’s Gulf coast is a popular tourist destination for the serious seashell collector. It is possible to find some quite rare shells there, and it’s impossible to not find any. Some of the beaches on Sanibel Island are nothing but shells!

But if you travel to Florida’s east coast – which is very long – you’ll still find your share of seashells. Just don’t expect them to be as plentiful. You will probably also see some very interesting sea life, dead and alive along the shore.

One of the best times to get out looking Continue reading Finding Shells (and Other Creatures) on The East Coast of Florida

Plan A Vacation With Good Shelling

Sanibel Island Seashells

The southeastern U. S. coastline, particularly the Gulf coast of Florida, contains some of the best shelling in the world. Sanibel Island and the surrounding area, including Captiva Island are situated just right for “catching” the shells in the current of the Gulf waters and when visiting you’ll find yourself doing the “Sanibel stoop” right along with all the other tourists who are hoping to find the best beach treasures.

When you are tired of shelling on the beaches, take a shelling cruise to the outer islands which are only accessible by boat, where the crowds will be fewer (I assume) and search for more treasures. Taking living shells is NOT ALLOWED – in fact, it’s against the law on Sanibel and in the area.

I’ve never visited the The Baily Matthews Shell Museum on Sanibel Island, – it wasn’t built when I vacationed there and opened in 1995 but every shell collector should find it interesting, and most likely helpful in identifying seashells.  The Museum contains tons of seashells (of course), but also a history of the Calusa Indians and how they used shells in daily life. Here is a listing of exhibits at the museum.

Do Angels Shed Their Wings?

Angel wing shells
Angel Wings

If angels ever need to give their wings a rest, I imagine they shed them along the Florida coast or over the shallow water where they eventually wash up on shore for us to find in the form of long white seashells.
The Angel Wing (Cyrtopleura costata) shells look just as you would picture them to look. They can be up to 8 inches long and even though my story imagines them being “dropped” in Florida, they can be found all the way up the east coast of the U. S. to the state of Massachusetts and in the south, to Texas and Brazil.

The ones shown here are courtesy of the Florida Sheller Blog, so check out his wonderful assortment of shells.

A Little About Sanibel Island

Photo of the Lighthouse on Sanibel Island from...
Image via Wikipedia

Sanibel Island is located on the west coast of Florida. The way the ocean current passes the area of Sanibel and Captiva causes it to deposit many seashell along the shores and makes it one of the top places in the world to collect seashells. In fact it is number three on the list, with the Sulu Islands in the Philippines and Jeffries Bay, South Africa taking the first and second spots respectively.

Because many folks visit the Sanibel area for the express purpose of shelling, the act of walking along the beach, bent over looking for shells has been given the name the “Sanibel stoop”. When visiting, be sure to take along some beach shoes, as some of the shores are literally covered in shells and pieces of shells.

One of my favorite blogs to visit is written by “Pam” who lives on Sanibel and has many photos and videos of her time walking the beautiful beaches collecting shells.  One of the places she talks about is the “lighthouse” which might be the one pictured here.  She also includes photos of the tourists she meets along the way and their treasures.  Visit her blog, “i love shelling“, and take a trip to paradise.

Whether you are very familiar with Sanibel Island or have never heard of it, you might be interested in these links:

Sanibel is also home to the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge, which is home to a huge migratory bird population.

Is It Okay To Purchase Shells At Shops?

Believe it
Image by Allan Ferguson via Flickr

If you are vacationing with the family near the beach and come across a “Shell Shop”, the kids start begging you to take them in and buy some souvenirs. Do you stop? Is it okay to purchase shells at a shop? After all, where do they get all those shells? Whether you would say “yes” or “no” to this question, you might be surprised to find that the answer is not clear cut.

I have purchased seashells – my conch shells and pink murex along with my sea biscuit sand dollar were all bought some place in Florida many years ago. In fact I recently needed a sea star for photographing to create some wedding stationary and had to pick one up at the local craft store.

Years ago, when I lived in Florida I didn’t really give it much thought. Seashells were plentiful and I guess I took them for granted. We’d spend a few hours at the beach and the kids would bring a collection home and sometimes we didn’t realize until then that something was living in them. Now I know better.

We’d go on vacation and pass lots of “shell shops” and occasionally stop to pick up a souvenir, since we could never seem to find such beautiful shells on our own.

So am I helping to contribute to the killing of innocent sea life by purchasing shells? Truthfully, now I wouldn’t purchase from a shop, unless I needed something (like the sea star) for my work. As you’ll read in the “answer” link below, some people depend on shelling for their livelihood and others are just greedy and uncaring about ecology. How are we to know who is who?

A similar question was posed to the San Diego Natural History Museum and you can read their answer here.