Strange Happenings: Bubbles on a Hermit Crab in a Shell

Bubbling seashell with hermit crab inside.

It was Fall in Florida and we were boating. When I was walking around a muddy island at low tide I came across this strange sight. A mound of bubbles in the sand.

The snail was not in the pear whelk shell, it was a hermit crab inside. I began to see his legs poking out through the foam. I have tried to research this phenomenon and have had no luck.

This is the first and only time I’ve seen something like this. No other shells / hermit crabs on the island were doing this. If you know, I’d love to hear.

More travels around the Indian River

The Sea Hare Is Not Furry and Cute

Aplysia fasciata Poiret, 1789 English: Mottled...
Aplysia fasciata Poiret, 1789 English: Mottled sea hare stranded on a beach at Sanibel Island in Lee County, Florida, U.S.A. With defensive purple dye. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The sea hare is a strange looking creature that you most likely would not want to pick up.  More than likely you would say “what the heck is that?”

It’s a slippery blob that can be dark purple or yellow-green, depending on the type, and it might be washed up on just about any Florida shoreline.  The sea hare  lives in shallow water in sea grass.  Like so much marine life, it can be found washed up on shore after a storm.
They will release a purple ink (like in this photo) when stressed.
An interesting fact about the sea hare is that they eat blue-green algae which sometimes contaminates water.  I’ve read about a number of creatures that help our environment by doing this.

The Wandering Meatloaf Seashell

Cryptochiton stelleri. You can see the dorsal ...
Image via Wikipedia

Have you ever looked down and seen a giant, 13 inch brown thing moving through the water?  Sounds a bit nasty doesn’t it?  Think a slab of mom’s meatloaf with dents in it.  Actually the common name of this shell would be “Gumboot chiton” and it was named for it’s appearance to the rubber sole of boots.  The Wikipedia page (link above)  says that some people refer to it as the “wandering meatloaf” and looking at this photo, I can see why.  It is actually a giant Pacific chiton – pronounced “kite -n” or see here.

Chitons are of the class, Polyplacophora and their common name is “sea cradle”.  They are composed of eight plates that overlap one another to cover their topside.   These are held in place by a girdle that surrounds them, or in some cases, like the gumboot chiton, the girdle covers the plates.

Chitons are odd looking and not at all what I think of when I hear the word seashell, but the animal lives only in ocean water but can be found in cold as well as tropical seas.  It attaches itself to rocks and can be found on top of them or under them.  It’s hard shell plates protect the top, but it can roll into a ball, if it has to, for more complete protection.

Although the Gumboot is the largest at 13-14 inches (33 plus cm), chitons can also be less than an inch long and not all of them are brown like a meatloaf.  The White Northern Chiton is light colored and the Rough-girdled Chiton has spiky hairs along the girdle.

An interesting note about chiton shells is that the plates will come apart once the animal has died and when they wash up on shore you may wonder just what it is you’ve found.  The shape of the plates have caused them to sometimes be called “butterfly shells”.  Scroll down the page and see some here.

The book I own and use for reference is the National Audubon Society Field Guide to Shells.

Identify more of your shells at Seashell Identification.

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