Tag Archives: true tulip

crown conch seashell

Shells I Found on The Muddy Flats

I am beginning to sound like a broken record, but all the shells I found were occupied by hermit crabs, so the best I could do was get some photos.

While traveling the backwaters of the Indian River, we came up behind the islands known as Three Sisters. Since I love to walk along the sandy flats when the tide is out, my son dropped me off and he went out fishing.

I found so many interesting shells in this area that I went back out to the boat to get my camera.

Here’s what I found in this marvelous area of Florida which is mostly untouched by man.

A pretty little yellow Pear Whelk shell. It is similar in looks to the Lightning whelk (second photo), but the opening is on the right, not the left, as in the Lightning whelk.

yellow pear whelk seashell
Little Yellow Pear Whelk Shell – Home to a Hermit Crab
lightning whelk
Little Lightning Whelk

This crown conch is not an unusual find, but I did like the nice size of it’s spikes. Often the spikes can be worn down from all the tumbling about in the ocean, but these spikes were long and sharp. Had to get a photo before the crab inside scampered away.

crown conch seashell
Crown Conch with Great Big Spikes

I wasn’t too sure what this little gray shell was, but I think it’s a faded pear whelk. It’s my best guess.

seashell in mud
Little gray shell

And here’s a real beauty… Yes, this is a seashell. It’s round, and mud covered, but it’s one of my favorite shells. Any guesses? Click to see a good photo of the Shark’s Eye shell.

mud covered round sharks eye seashell
Yes, it’s a seashell!

And my favorite find of the day was this awesome big True Tulip shell. My book says max 5 inches for this one, but this one is more like 6 inches. It has a broken opening with an oyster attached to the inside, and of course, a hermit crab has taken up residence.

true tulip shell
Big True Tulip shell, next to my foot

All these shells and many many more were living in close proximity on this sandy bottom surrounded by oyster beds.  Shells could be seen scurrying along just under the water at low tide, but the crab would stop and hide once I approached.  They tuck themselves all the way up inside these shells, so it looks unoccupied, but I know better.

oyster bed
Oyster bed along the sandy flats
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true tulip seashell

The Big True Tulip Shell I Had to Give Back

While boating around the backwater, looking for some fish to catch, we pulled up to a muddy area covered with about 6 inches of water. While the boys played around with the boat, I walked the flat area in search of seashells. I saw many crown conchs, all of which had hermit crabs moving them around.

When I came to an odd looking thing, and realized it was a sting ray, which are common in these areas. But this one, about a foot in size, wasn’t moving away. He was “watching” me as I approached. It was a little creepy, so I turned and walked back toward the boat.

On my way back, I saw an odd shape in the mud and touched it with my foot (which was inside my water shoes, of course!). It felt hard and I thought it must be a shell that was buried in the sand. I began to hope that it might be a great find.

I reached down and pulled up a big True Tulip shell!  You can see it next to my glasses below, and it measured about 5.5 inches in length.

big true tulip seashell
True Tulip Seashell, Measuring 5.5 inches long

According to my Seashell Book, the True tulip reaches a size of 5 inches max. So this one was a big shell.

(By the way, the photo at the top was of a smaller tulip I found in another spot. I included that picture to show the colors and bands a little better.)
So this was not the first Tulip shell I had found, but I haven’t been able to collect any because they are always occupied by hermit crabs.

This one was buried down under the sand. I saw no sign of life inside the shell. How exciting… I had not only found a Tulip to keep, but it was a huge Tulip! I brought it over to the boat and set it inside to take home.

tulip shell covered with dirt
Top of the Tulip Shell

It was late by the time we got home so I rinsed the shell and set it out on the back patio for overnight. Some time later I looked outside and noticed that the shell was not there. Hmmmm… this could be disappointing.

I found it up next to the house and my suspicions were correct. A HUGE hermit crab was living inside the shell. This happened to me not long ago, when I collected a broken white whelk and it ended up being a hermit crab home too.

So I put the beautiful shell into a bucket and the next morning when we went out on the boat again I put the shell, with the hermit crab inside, back into the water.

I still don’t have a Tulip shell.

Banded Tulip Seashells

Banded Tulip
Image by photoholic1 via Flickr... Banded Tulip

The Banded Tulip shell (Fasciolaria lilium) is one of the more distinct shells you will be lucky to find along the Florida coastline.  It has thin bands or stripes that spiral around the shell which is often splotched with gray or orange.  In all the years I lived there (26), I don’t recall seeing one.  I’m sure I would have collected it if I had!

They can be up to 4 inches (10 cm long) and are longish and pointed. The shell is fairly thin and can be broken by the waves which would carry it to shore, so perhaps finding a nice, whole one is a rare thing.

There is also a shell called a True Tulip (Fasciolaria tulipa) which is similar in shape but their colors are different as the orange will be more splotchy and the lines are closer set and less apparent. This site has side by side pictures of both types.

Do you have a banded tulip in your collection?

Read more about Seashell Identification.