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Sanibel Island Treasure Find: Worm Shells

Posted by Jody on December 15, 2011

Today’s Featured Writer: Alaina Diehl

Worm Shells Found on Sanibel Island, Florida (©Jody Diehl)

Names can be deceiving! Although these shells bear the title “worm shells,” they are the home to little tiny snails. As you can see, it’s like an entire uninhabited apartment complex washed up on the beach of Sanibel Island, Florida.

This is one of my absolute favorite Sanibel Island finds.

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Worm Shell Family
(Vermetidae)

A rather large family of loosely coiled shells found in all warm waters and comprising about 5-6 genera and numerous species; there are about 11 species known in our waters, ranging in width from less than 1/16” (2mm) to 1” (25mm). They begin as tiny, coiled larval shells, but soon become uncoiled and grow in an irregular fashion. They attach themselves to rocks, other shells, or wooden structures, either singly or in large masses. Most worm shells have a circular, horny operculum, with or without projections on the inner side; in some the operculum is small or absent. They feed on tiny food particles present in the water that is pumped into the mantle cavity and extracted by hairlike filaments on the gills. They also trap food in the surrounding water using mucous threads; the food particles are then drawn into the mantle cavity.

Rehder, Harald A. “Worm Shell Family.” The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Seashells. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1981. 427.

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What’s your favorite beach treasure find?

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