Abalones live where the rocks are, near shore or sometimes in quite deep water, and move around on a large, muscular foot. This is the best reason I can think of for not finding them in Florida – not many rocks. I’ve never seen one here, nor are they mentioned in my seashell ID book.
They are collected to use as food and of course the shell is used for it’s ornamental value.
The Red Abalone (Haliotis rufescens) is the largest of the species growing to 12 inches (30.5cm) long. The outer shell is dark, brick red and the inside has a beautiful iridescence.
The Abalone is prone to Withering disease that causes it to eat itself which causes the muscular foot they use to hold onto rocks, to wither, which in turn causes them to fall off and eventually starve to death, unless a predator gets them first.
The seashells you collect will be different depending on where in Florida you search for them.
If you go to the beach looking to collect nice big seashells you may be disappointed. Some areas of Florida are known for their seashell offerings (Sanibel Island on the West coast, for instance), but not all Florida beaches are littered with shells.
Many of the prettiest shells you will see are tiny. You must look carefully as you walk along the beach.
These two little sea shells were collected along the gulf coast of Florida when my family visited Sanibel Island. They are small, only about 1/2 inch in length. I never knew what type of shells they were, but eventually I became interested in shell names and found out their scientific names.
I think these shells compliment each other nicely with matching colors in stripes and spots.
The rounded one with tiny stripes is a natica, which is in the family Naticidae along with Moon Snails and Shark’s Eye shells.
The little spotted shell is a “Babylonia spirata”. I’ve never collected another shell like it, but then I rarely go to Sanibel.
The shells I find on the East coast of Florida often differ from the ones on the West. For one thing shells here on the East are not as pretty and there is less of a variety. They are usually worn and broken from the waves and tides. The Gulf waters are calmer so shells don’t get as beat up. Different species like to live in calm water too, and they wouldn’t like it on the Atlantic side. I find my best (most interesting) shells while out boating in the backwaters. Often they are home to hermit crabs, so I take a picture and leave it where I found it.
If you visit the drive-on beach area in New Smyrna Beach the ark shells in my photo above are mostly what you will find, along with tiny coquina shells.
You can see how colorful and varied the shells are that I collected on the opposite (West) side of the state!