Tulip shells can be some of the prettiest I ever find, but I rarely find them! Then, the other day when we boated up to a new (for us) little sand bar, it turned out to be the ‘island of tulip shells’.
Tulip snails can be found all around the coastline of Florida, or just about. The tulips are elongated shells which are similar in shape to the Horse Conch but don’t get as large. They are all “spindle” shells. The top and bottom of the shell is long with a rounded center part. Horse Conchs are bumpy at the top whereas Tulips are smooth.
True tulips, like the one pictured here, grow larger than the banded variety and they have less distinct horizontal bands. Both types have beautiful splotches of color that can be gray, brown, orange, pink or maroon.
I spotted this beauty and moved in for a closer look.
The big tulip was moving (because a hermit crab was living inside) against the flow of the water quite fast. Mollusks move slowly, so I knew it was a crab that had taken over. I called my son over to see the shell and the crab just kept moving along. He wasn’t bothered at all by our approach!
My Super Short Video of This Hermit Crab in a Pretty Tulip Shell
Even covered in barnacles, this True Tulip coloring was hard to miss. The maroon and pink colors were just stunning and the shell is quite large. True Tulip’s grow to be 5 inches according to my reference book, but this one is at least six inches long.
Top and bottom of the True Tulip
This masterpiece of a seashell has pretty blue-green coloring inside. I did not notice this until I looked at my photos! I was careful how I held this one because that hermit crab was big. Usually the hermits stay tucked up inside, but sometimes I find a brave guy who likes to come out. I wasn’t taking any chances.
True tulips will eat banded tulips! There is no mercy in the animal kingdom.
A Beautiful Dark Banded Tulip Shell
On the same muddy island I also came across this gorgeous banded tulip. Banded tulips are generally smaller than the True type and the bands are clearly seen. The dark coloring is striking and a hermit crab was tucked up inside.
The banded tulip below is partially covered by hardened sand. The elements of salt and sun can do some damage. And then there are the barnacles that will attach themselves in clusters. When I find shells like this there is always something living inside so I move the shells as little as possible to get photos.
With a whole island to explore, I gave each sighting a bit of time and moved on to see what was coming next. On this day, there turned out to be a whole lot to see. In fact, I rarely find Tulip shells at all. But, as you can tell, this day was different. None of them held the snail that made the shell, which was unfortunate.
Also view the Shell Guide pages at Bailey Matthews Shell Museum to see more about this marine snail.
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