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Posts Tagged ‘Sanibel Island Florida seashells’

Picture Perfect Calico Scallops

Posted by Jody on June 10, 2014

Calico Scallops

Calico Scallops

It’s easy to see why these beautiful bivalves are the seashell collector’s dream. Each and every Calico Scallop (Argopecten gibbus) is a colorful, unique, and fun-filled piece of eye candy! They can be found in variations of pink, white, orange, brown, purple. Keeping only one is virtually impossible for even the most tried and true beachcomber! Commonly found on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, they range from Delaware Bay to Florida, into the Gulf of Mexico, and south to much of the Caribbean Sea.

Picture Perfect Calico Scallops

Picture Perfect Calico Scallops

These variegated seashells are especially plentiful and very easy to find undamaged on Florida’s sandy Gulf Coast beaches. The color-splashed Calico Scallops in this collection all hail from the world-renowned shelling beaches of Sanibel Island, Florida.

Picture Perfect Calico Scallops

Picture Perfect Calico Scallops

Growing up to 2 1/2 inches across, Calico Scallops are almost circular in shape and very easy to identify. These seashells have about 20 strong, well defined, smooth (non-scaly) ribs. Look for each shell’s “ears” to be about equal in size.

Seriously, who wouldn’t be tickled pink to have a basket full of these picture perfect beach treasures in their collection?

Happy Beachcombing!


Related links:

Sanibel Island, Florida: A Beachcomber’s Bonanza

The Sanibel Shell Guide

Beachcombing Regulations Abound. Know Before You Go!

Christmas with Sanibel Style



Posted in Beach Treasures - Beachcombing, Gulf of Mexico Beaches, Seashells | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Lightning Whelk, A “South Paw”

Posted by Jody on May 8, 2014

The whelk family is a rather large and far-reaching family!  It includes over 1500 species, and whelks are found in all seas from the Arctic, through the tropics and to the Antarctic. This means that on any given day our family can hope to find this family at the seashore.

The lightning whelk is a relatively common seashell which is native to the Atlantic coast of the United States from North Carolina to Florida and along the Gulf of Mexico to Texas. This predatory sea snail can be found in the sand from the near low tide line to water about 10 feet deep. They feed primarily on marine bivalves (clams, scallops, etc.). 

Even though it’s a somewhat frequent event, finding an empty lightning whelk seashell is always a delight for us! We’ve been fortunate enough to find numerous perfect, uninhabited specimens of the lightning whelk along the Gulf Coast beaches from Florida to Texas. We have also left a whole passel of them behind on the sand because they were either still alive, or they had become comfy little condos for hermit crabs!

Lightning Whelk

Lightning Whelk

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department says: “Lightning whelks reach a length of 2.5 to 16 inches (6 to 40 cm). Their distinguishing characteristics include their off-white to tan or gray shell with narrow, brown “lightning” streaks from the top of the shell to the bottom. The shell is white on the inside. The animal inside the shell is dark brown to black. Lightning whelks are unusual in that they have a counterclockwise shell spiral (lightning whelks are usually called “left handed”).”  The related Perverse Whelk is also a “south paw” but has a heavier and stouter seashell.

Lightning Whelks from the Gulf Coast

Lightning Whelks from the Gulf Coast

“Like snails, the lightning whelk is in the class Gastropoda which means “stomach footed”. Gastropods are univalves (have only one shell). Hermit crabs often make homes of unoccupied lightning whelk shells. A lightning whelk leaves behind a trail when crawling. It is often easy to track them. The shell grows very quickly when the whelk is young as long as food is abundant. As it gets older, the shell grows more slowly. The color of the shell depends greatly on light, temperature and age. Older whelks have pale shells.” (TPWD)

Lightning Whelk Whorl

Lightning Whelk Whorl

In 1987, the treasured lightning whelk (Busycon perversum pulleyi) was appropriately honored by being designated the official state seashell of Texas. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has a short, interesting article covering many details of this beautiful sea creature including its life cycle, diet, and ways this gastropod has been utilized by man through the years.

From our family to your family: Happy Beachcombing!


Posted in Beach Treasures - Beachcombing, Seashells | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Who needs snow?

Posted by Jody on November 28, 2012


The beach on Sanibel Island, Florida


Posted in Gulf of Mexico Beaches, Today's Special | Tagged: , , , | 14 Comments »

Slippers on the Beach

Posted by Jody on August 2, 2012

When I was a child, we called any seashell that looked like this one a Lady’s Slipper.  There are several slipper shell species found on the Florida Gulf Coast,  but we didn’t know that back then.  We just loved to find these little beach treasures!

Now, I know that they are also called boat shells, quarterdeck shells, Indian boats and canoes.

Common Atlantic Slipper Shell

The Common Atlantic Slipper (Crepidula fornicata) is indigenous to the western Atlantic seaboard, from Canada to Florida and the Gulf Of Mexico.  This species has been unintentionally introduced to other areas, including the Pacific Northwest, Europe and beyond.

Common Atlantic Slipper Shell

The Common Atlantic Slipper is a gastropod, having only one shell. The little marine snail can be discovered living on rocks, other seashells and horseshoe crabs. They often live in stacks of multiple shells, one on top of another. Easily identifiable, with its flat interior shelf, this whimsical beach slipper measures from 3/4″ to almost 3” in length.

Atlantic Slippers can be found in sand and mud from low tide to water up to 50′ feet deep. They have quite a wide range of colors, from white to cream and brown to orange. These convex seashells frequently come decorated with brown stripes, blotches or splashes.

Common Atlantic Slipper Shell

Have a great day at the beach! I hope you’ll head home with a few extra pairs of slippers.

Posted in Beach Treasures - Beachcombing, Seashells | Tagged: , , , , | 9 Comments »

Kitten’s Paws: Oh, So Cute!

Posted by Jody on July 26, 2012

Kitten’s Paws (Plicatula Gibbosa)

Even dog people can’t resist  “oh, so cute” Kitten’s Paws!  They are one of the easiest seashells to identify because they look just like their name.  As a child, these were one of my favorite beach treasures. And as an adult, I still love finding them!

Kitten’s Paws (interior)

Kitten’s Paws (Plicatula gibbosa), sometimes called cat’s paws or Atlantic Kittenpaws, are plentiful on sandy beaches from North Carolina to the West Indies. They are common on the Florida Gulf Coast, where the sea tosses them onto the sand in abundance year-round.

Kitten’s Paws

These small, thick, rather flattened bivalves can range from  ½ – 1 ½ inch.  White to grey in color, they usually have splashes of reddish brown along their strong ribs, but sometimes they’re found in solid white.

Everyone enjoys finding kitten’s paws! They’re quite  precious little beach treasures.

Who could resist ’em?

Posted in Beach Treasures - Beachcombing, Seashells | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

The Common American Auger

Posted by Jody on May 24, 2012

The Common American Auger (Terebra dislocata), also called  the Atlantic Auger, is a very familiar find for beachcombers from the sandy beaches of the Southern Atlantic states to the West Indies.  But that doesn’t make this seashell any less of a desirable discovery in my book! Gorgeous in both shape and design, the Common America Auger comes in colors from off white and yellow tan to reddish brown and blueish gray (almost purple). This beach treasure has a  glossy exterior which reminds me of elegantly rippled icing, piped around the edge of a wedding cake. What do you think?

Common American Auger (Atlantic Auger)

Ranging from Virginia to the Caribbean, these little, intricately whorled shells are abundant year round on the beaches of Florida’s Gulf Coast. We found the seashells pictured here on the sandy shores of Sanibel Island, Florida. Fairly easy to identify, they are slender and shaped much like a spike and can grow up to 2 3/8 inches in length.

The Common American Auger lives in sand from near the low tide line to water 100′ deep.  A carnivore, this sea snail is believed to feed on marine worms.

Common American Auger (Atlantic Auger)

Happy beachcombing!

Now, did somebody say “cake?” I’ll get the plates, you get the forks!

Posted in Beach Treasures - Beachcombing, Seashells | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

This Common Fig Doesn’t Grow on Trees!

Posted by Jody on April 26, 2012

Common figs don’t grow on trees!

   In fact, these gorgeous figs were hand picked from a sandy beach on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Common Fig

The Common Fig, sometimes called a paper fig, is a very thin, fragile looking seashell. So thin, compared to the heavy Florida fighting conch, it’s surprising that it will wash up on the beaches of the Gulf Coast in one piece! Even more beautiful than it is fragile, the common fig (Ficus communis) comes in colors from off-white to tan, sometimes with undertones of blue, giving it a purplish cast. Inside, the shell is a glossy tan. With its crisscrossing ribs and intricate, low spire, this pear shaped shell is very easy to identify.

Common Fig (Ficus Communis)

This beach treasure is common in shallow, sandy water.  An abundant seaside souvenir, the common fig is found on beaches from North Carolina to Florida and Mexico. They can reach up to 5″ in length. Our family has found plenty of these lovely seashells on the white sand shores of Sanibel Island, Florida.

Common Fig

What’s for lunch? The carnivorous common fig especially likes sea urchins.

~I think I’ll just stick to Fig Newtons!

Common Fig

As far as “common” seashells go, I think common figs are remarkably photogenic beach treasures! What do you think?

Have a great day at the beach!


Posted in Beach Treasures - Beachcombing, Gulf of Mexico Beaches, Seashells | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Shark Eyes, “Here’s looking at you, kid.”

Posted by Jody on April 5, 2012

Shark Eye -Neverita duplicata- found on Sanibel Island, Florida

Our best shark eye!  Isn’t she a beaut?

Shark Eyes

Skark eyes (Neverita duplicata) are members of the moon snail family (Naticidae). These beautiful, smooth, dome-shaped shells can grow up to 3, even 3 ½” high.  Usually a light brown to grey color, the tips (apexes) of the shells often sport a darker purple-blueish cast, giving the appearance of an eye — hence the name.  This makes these beautiful beach treasures rather easy to identify. How lucky for us!

Shark eyes can be found along the Atlantic coast of the US from Massachusetts to Florida and to the states along the Gulf of Mexico. They live from the sandy shore to just below the low tide line. Predatory marine snails, they feed on bivalves (e.g., clams). These beauties are actually a very common beachcombing find throughout their range.  We found our best specimens on the Gulf shores of Sanibel Island, Florida.

Sanibel is a family favorite destination for us! Just one visit to this idyllic, white sand isle escape and you’ll understand exactly why Arthur Frommer, himself, listed Sanibel Island as #1 on the list of his Top 10 Favorite Travel Destinations in 2011!

Low Tide at Sunrise on Sanibel Island, Florida

Sanibel Island, along with it’s neighbor to the north, Captiva Island, is a true beachcombers paradise.  The Sanibel Captiva Chamber of Commerce proudly boasts, “Our islands provide for the perfect vacations. Enjoy 15 miles of unspoiled beaches, 22 miles of bike paths, 50 types of fish, 230 types of birds, 250 types of shells and 0 stop lights.”

Here are a couple of other posts you might be interested in: Sanibel Island, Florida: A Beachcomber’s Paradise, Beachcombing? Shelling Regulations Abound. Know Before You Go! And, one more very useful link: The Sanibel Captiva Chamber of Commerce.

Happy beachcombing!

Posted in A Treasure of a Beach (Best Beaches), Beach Treasures - Beachcombing, Gulf of Mexico Beaches, Seashells | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Not your garden variety tulip!

Posted by Jody on March 15, 2012

You won’t find banded tulips in the garden, but if you’ve been beachcombing on the Florida Gulf Coast, you might have one in your seashell collection!  The banded tulip (Fasciolaria lilium) has a beautifully decorated, spiral shell. This prized beach treasure can grow to over 4″ in length.  Banded tulips can be found from Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida to Louisiana and Texas, extending to Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. They live on sand and muddy sand in water from 2′ to 150′ deep.

Banded tulip snail on muddy bottom (Photo credit: NURC/UNCW and NOAA/FGBNMS)

The closely related Florida banded tulip (F. l. hunteria) is a more common find than the banded tulip (but equally gorgeous). Found on the Atlantic coast from North Carolina to Florida and around to Alabama on the Gulf coast, this seashell is generally smaller than the banded tulip.  It’s spiral lines are spaced a bit wider than on the banded tulip.

Question: How do you tell the difference? Answer: This is where it gets tricky. Conflicting information abounds!

When I checked our collection of beach treasures from Sanibel Island, I referred to my Audubon Field Guide and looked for the telltale shallow grooves  near the top of the seashell, at the “third whorl.” I understand that the banded tulip is the one that has little depressions that run around the shell there.  These little ridges are easily detectable if you are looking for them. The Florida banded tulip, on the other hand, is missing these little grooves. ~Maybe~

Florida Banded Tulip and Banded Tulip (?)

I’ve seen a very respectable source (The Baily-Matthews Shell Museum) use the entire Latin name Fasciolaria lilium hunteria, but then only refer to their site’s pictured shell as a banded tulip. I’ve also seen photos of both banded tulips and Florida banded tulips with their names all mixed up in a variety of shell guides. Please, don’t even get me started on true tulips!

Florida Banded Tulip

When it comes right down to it, collecting  a bunch of tulips on the beach is awesome fun in every season!  ~Come tiptoe through the tulips with me.

Happy Spring!  Happy Beachcombing!

Posted in Beach Treasures - Beachcombing, Seashells | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Junonia, a Rare Find.

Posted by Jody on December 1, 2011

The Junonia (Scaphella junonia), a deep-water marine mollusk, lives off the Atlantic Coast from North Carolina to Florida and along Florida’s Gulf of Mexico Coast.  A junonia on the beach is a rare sight, making this one of the more desirable seashells in any serious sheller’s collection. Find a junonia at the seashore and it’s guaranteed that fellow beachcombers will be just as thrilled as you are! In fact, genuine shellers will likely serve you bragging rights on a silver platter!, the official Chamber of Commerce website for Sanibel Island & Captiva Island (Florida), describes the junonia shell in this way: “The islands’ most coveted seashell, it belongs to the volute family. Its milky chamber is covered with brown spots on the outside, and the animal that occupies the shell is likewise marked. Shellers who find a junonia on Sanibel or Captiva get their pictures in the local newspaper.” *This comes from the Chamber of Commerce of two islands that are literally made from seashells!* … “Sanibel Island and Captiva Island have earned their reputation as the Shell Islands honestly. They are actually made out of shells, like some magnificent work of shell art created over thousands of years. When islanders dig gardens in their backyards, they find conchs, whelks, scallops and clam shells often perfectly intact.”

Scaphella junonia (Photo by Bradeos Graphon / Wikimedia Commons)

Scaphella junonia johnstoneae, a subspecies of Scaphella junonia, is found in deep water off of Alabama’s coast. According to the Alabama Department of Archives and History: “The Scaphella junonia johnstoneae, or Johnstone’s Junonia, is an offshore seashell common to the Gulf Coast. The shell was described by a Harvard scientist, Dr. William J. Clench. He named it in honor of Kathleen Yerger Johnstone, an amateur conchologist from Mobile, Alabama, who popularized seashells through speeches and books. The Scaphella junonia johnstoneaewas made the state shell in 1990 by Act no.90-567.”

Do you have one of these highly-prized beach treasures in your seashell collection? I have yet to find a junonia on the beach. But, when I finally find one, you’ll be among the first to know!

Happy beachcombing!


Posted in Beach Treasures - Beachcombing, Seashells | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

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