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Tiny San Diego Beach Treasures: It Pays to Look Closely!

Posted by Jody on March 7, 2014

Today’s Featured Guest Writer is Robyn W.

Tiny San Diego Beach Treasures: It Pays to Look Closely!

Some special little shells have washed up around the county in the past few weeks. I’ve been lucky to be able to sneak off to the beach here and there in the midst of a busy schedule, and was thrilled to find my first­-ever tusk shell in January on the sand at False Point, on the northern end of the Tourmaline Surfing Park. It is a Six­-sided Tusk shell, and there was only one. After looking for tusk shells on and off for the past 37 years in San Diego, this seemed pretty special.

Dentalium neohexagonum from La Jolla, California

Dentalium neohexagonum from La Jolla, California

Dentalium neohexagonum, the Six­sided Tusk shell. It is a little under an inch long. (January 2014)

Then, last week, I took a walk south from the southern end of Imperial Beach, and found a LOT of tusk shells in the drift debris at low tide. These were almost all the Indian Money Tusk, the shell that was prized as currency by the native peoples of the west coast in the past. Two little Six­-sided Tusks were found that day also.

Antalis pretiosum, the Indian Money Tusk

Antalis pretiosum, the Indian Money Tusk

Antalis pretiosum, the Indian Money Tusk. The largest is a little over an inch long. (February 2014)

Back at False Point in January, there were tiny Tinted Wentletraps washed up here and there on the sand. The largest in the photo is about ¼ inch long.

Epitonium tinctum, the Tinted Wentletrap

Epitonium tinctum, the Tinted Wentletrap

Epitonium tinctum, the Tinted Wentletrap. (January 2014)

One more San Diego beach treasure…but from a while ago, are these trivias found in the shelly debris at low tide way back around the year 2000. They were found at Torrey Pines State Beach, and I have never seen them since. They are about ¼ inch long.

Trivia californiana from Torrey Pines, Califoenia

Trivia californiana from Torrey Pines, California

Trivia californiana, the “Coffee Bean”.

Keep an eye out for San Diego’s tiny beach treasures ­ you’ll find them where you least expect them!


Robyn, what fun! You have quite an eye. These tiny beach treasures are absolutely wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing your beachy times and your amazing treasure trove with us! I feel as if I’ve just had a great day at the beach too! ~Jody


11 Responses to “Tiny San Diego Beach Treasures: It Pays to Look Closely!”

  1. How awesome! Im so jealous. :). You have a great eye!

    • Jody said

      Me too! Robin really hauled in the treasures! I’m so glad she decided to share with us.

    • Robyn said

      Thanks — I’ve been a “bug-collector/photographer” for the past ten years or so, and I think it got my search image working for LITTLE things. I don’t think I saw the little shells much back in the day — was always searching for big, spectacular treasures…!

  2. kiwiskan said

    Wentletraps are my very favourite shell, and our NZ ones are very like yours – mostly bigger though. We often collect shell sand from the beach and sort through it under the microscope for tiny shells. It can get addictive…

  3. So impressive, you are my birthplace and home and I have never found (or knew about) a Six­-sided Tusk shell. I have shell gathered shells in these beaches all my life. Bravo!

    • Robyn said

      Thanks Cindy — by the way, I saw a few more of the six-sided variety, sticking to sea anemones at the Mission Beach jetty a couple weeks ago (at low tide). So they are pretty widespread. It does seem like San Diego beaches offer up a lot of variety and it’s hard to predict what one will find on a given day.

  4. Maggie Beck said

    Wow! These are spectacular both because they are structurally lovely and so very tiny!

  5. Fossillady said

    Great photos of the tiny shells, which I’ve never heard of before,so thanks for sharing

    • Jody said

      I’m thrilled that Robyn decided to share with us! I’ve searched the beaches of San Diego many times and haven’t ever found anything like these treasures. I’ll definitely look more closely on my next visit!

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