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Posts Tagged ‘shelling on Sanibel Island Florida’

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 »

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.


Worm Shell Family

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.


What’s your favorite beach treasure find?

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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 »

Shellabration! 2012 ~ and Beyond (Sanibel Island, Florida)

Posted by Jody on November 3, 2011

4/22/2012 Update: Shellabration! 2013 is scheduled for Feb 26 – Mar 4th, 2013. The 76th Annual Shell Fair is scheduled for March 7 – 9th, 2013.

This is the event for seashell collectors, seashell crafters, and seashell enthusiasts of all ages and sorts!  The Sanibel Island, Florida Shell Fair and Show is celebrating its 75th year in 2012!  Shellabration! 2012, celebrated on the islands of both Sanibel and Captiva, is a week-long seashell extravaganza which runs from February 26 through March 4, 2012.  The actual 75th Annual Sanibel Shell Fair and Show is scheduled for March 1-3. This is the longest running shell fair and show of its kind in the United States.

Shells on the Beach, Sanibel Island, Florida (©Jody Diehl)

There are few better places on the North American continent for a festival of all things seashell!  According to the Shellabration! 2012 website, Sanibel and Captiva are unique among Florida’s Gulf of Mexico barrier islands because their  “boomerang shape and east-west orientation rather than the usual north-south positioning” makes their shores giant, natural shell-scoops, especially when the conditions are right.  Winter is the peak shelling season for both of these islands, so naturally late February and early March are an ideal time to pull out all the stops and put the winter’s best finds on display!

Along with the Sanibel Island Shell Fair and Show, Sanibel and Captiva’s island communities are planning a myriad of events for the Shellebration! 2012.  Here is just a small sampling of the festivities from the Shellabration! 2012 website.

Sanibel Stoop at Sunrise (Photo ©Jody Diehl)

The Sanibel Stoop: Held on Friday, February 17, at Bowman’s Beach, you can help Shellabration! 2012 break “The Guinness Book of World Records” number for the largest seashell scavenger hunt!

Watson MacRae Gallery: “Sea Shells” Invitational Exhibition will include a week long exhibit featuring the works of invited Sanibel artists and focusing on The Shells of Sanibel and the sea.  Monday, Feb 27th opening reception will be open to the public.  In addition, the Watson MacRae Gallery will feature shell inspired pottery and glass from artists around the country during Shellabration! 2012 week.

One Woman Play & Ice Cream Social:  On Sunday, March 4th, at the Community House, Rusty Brown presents “In Celebration of Anne Morrow Lindbergh” followed by an Ice Cream Social. (Anne Morrow Lindbergh, wife of Charles A. Lindbergh, authored the classic, thought provoking book “Gift From the Sea”.)

“Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach—waiting for a gift from the sea.”    Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift From the Sea

To find out more about Sanibel Island, Florida you can check out: “Sanibel Island, Florida: A Beachcombers Bonanza”, “Beachcombing? Shelling Regulations Abound. Know Before You Go!”, & “The Sanibel Shell Guide”.

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

Sanibel Island, Florida: A Beachcomber’s Bonanza

Posted by Jody on September 8, 2011

Sanibel Island, Florida is the ultimate US vacation destination for the serious beachcomber! Sanibel Island, located in the Gulf of Mexico, is south and west of Fort Meyers. With miles and miles of shell-strewn, sugary white sand beaches and hundreds of different types of sea shells to pick from, you won’t need anything to keep you busy but the seashore!

©Jody Diehl

Sanibel Island Beach Treasures (©Jody Diehl)

Head out to the wide sandy shore, and soon enough you’ll find out exactly what the “Sanibel Stoop” is.  If you aren’t doing the “Sanibel Stoop” in a matter of minutes, you are sure to see plenty of beachcombers who are! We are stoopers.  Other shellers will come armed with shelling baskets attached to long handles. (These scoops are used to reach down into the sandy shallows.) Some come equipped with handy-dandy surgical tweezers to pick up the mini sea shells that are often found at Lighthouse Beach. I’m convinced that all systems for shelling on the beaches of Sanibel Island are equally effective.

Sanibel Island Lighthouse at Christmastime (©Jody Diehl)

Sure, you’ll be told the best time to shell on the beaches of Sanibel Island is a couple days after a winter storm, during low tide, when the moon is full…  Those may indeed be the ideal conditions for shelling, but that never seems to matter.  We have always come home quite happy with new beach treasures from our seashell hunting any time of year, no matter the tide, no matter the  phase of the moon, and no matter which Sanibel Island beach!

We have found teeny-tiny miniature shells in heaps, and we have come across live whelks as large as Greg’s size 12 sandal moving across the sand. The most amazing thing about shelling on Sanibel Island’s beaches is the number of whole, unbroken shells you can find.  Lightning Whelks, Fighting Conchs, Olives, Augers, Turkey Wings, Moon Shells, Alphabet Cones, Scallops, Banded Tulips! The variety is amazing and the colors are so beautiful.

Be sure to have good a shell guide for identification purposes and check out the tide tables if you do want to hit low tide at the beach.  You won’t want to miss seeing the sunrise and sunset from the Gulf side of the island.  Those colors are absolutely gorgeous, too!

Have a great day beachcombing on Sanibel Island, Florida!  -J-

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Posted in A Treasure of a Beach (Best Beaches), Beach Treasures - Beachcombing, Gulf of Mexico Beaches, Seashells | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 37 Comments »

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