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Collecting seashells on the beaches of Sanibel, Captiva and the world

Beach Sea Whip Tips

purple sea whip

While sifting through the BEACH BLING on the east end of Sanibel this past week, I found a purple SEA WHIPS. I’ve collected a few over the years because of their beauty but now I look very carefully at them because at times, I’ll see little surprise hitch hikers on them. Take a closer look…

one-tooth simnia on sea whip

Did you see the two shells attached to two different branches? They practically camo themselves on the branches, don’t they? They are called ONE-TOOTH SIMNIAS.

Simnialena uniplicata

On this SEA WHIP I found last week, there are two ONE-TOOTH SIMNIAS attached to this one as well…

sea whip one-tooth simnia

I plucked one of the shells off the branch. Look at how sleek it is.

one-tooth simnia aperture

I never find these washed up on the beach… I wonder why? I’m sure they are there so I’m going to keep my eyes peeled for them. Here is the other view…

one-tooth simnia

Since this is a miniature shell I wanted to show you how big the ONE-TOOTH SIMNIA was in relation to a quarter. Unfortunately, all I see in this picture is George Washington getting comfy with one of those travel roll pillows around his neck. I hope you have better luck focusing on the size of the shell instead of the neck roll. ha!

one-tooth simnia size

I learned to look closely at SEA WHIPS because I saw a few displays in the scientific division of the 75th Sanibel Shell Fair and Show this year of interesting things that find homes on SEA WHIPS. Here is a very impressive display of a WEST INDIES CHANK SHELL EGG CASE attached to a SEA WHIP with the baby CHANK SHELLS coming out.

chank shell egg case

Awesome, right? Expert sheller Marilee describes her exhibit as…

“Egg case of Turbinella angulata    On sea plume (Pseudopterogorgia) Found on beach after storm near Jack’s Bay- Eleuthera Bahamas”

This was an “Aha moment” for me since she left the egg case attached to the SEA PLUME. Now I always look at what’s attached to the SEA WHIPS or SEA PLUMES mixed in with all the BEACH BLING. Thank you Marilee! It was such a pleasure to meet you at the show.

Moralee shell diplay

 I have another surprise to show you on my next post about SEA WHIPS. I found another cool shell attached to them! Until then, take a look at another hitchhiker….a BRYOZOAN COLONY hanging out on this purple lovely.

Sea whip with bryozoan colony


  1. Excellent post with great photos and helpful information. The Simnia can be so hard to see. Sponges are another great place to find interesting shells. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Love it, I’ve got 2 here myself and I want place them in frames.

  3. Learn something new every day on here…thanks Pam

  4. That is beautiful – thanks for sharing.

  5. So do you usually find the sea whips just laying on the beach among the shells? I never seem to find any of them and the purple color is gorgeous.

    • Next time when you see lots of pen shells. starfish and all that bling that’s washed up on the beach… take your time and look through it…. I bet you find a purple sea whip! You’ve got to look through a lot to find the simnias but that’s what makes it really special when you find one. Treasure!

  6. Wow! Those sea whips are beautiful by themselves. What an eye to find the 2 one-tooth wonders. You’re better than the tooth fairy. She usually only has to look under a single pillow–you have a whole island to seach!

    Thanks again for sharing all the treasures you find, and thanks to Donnie, Ken, Clark, Captn’ Brian and all the rest of the shelling posse.

  7. Over the many years of shelling & vacationing on Sanibel, I’ve also found Atlantic Oysters attached to these sea whips.

    • You’ll like my next post then too! ;)

  8. I just want to add one more thing to the sea whips with simnias attached. A couple of years ago(on Sanibel) I found a golden sea whip and it has a golden sinmia on it. Tricky little creatures.

    • Wow! Really ? I found a golden one but didn’t even think about checking it closely since I’ve spent so much time on the purple whips. I’ll keep my eye out. Thanks!

  9. Who knew? That’s awesome about the little “hitch hiker” Simnias. About the sea whips…how do you preserve them or frame them? Can you “paint” them to reinforce the delicate stemming to frame them and preserve the color or how/what does one do? Thanks.

    • Christine, the sea whips are one type of soft coral. As such, it is a colony of numerous small polypoid animals that eat plankton. The relatively firm structure that we think of as the sea whip is actually the exoskeleton of the colony of very small animals, which you cannot see, because they hide inside the exoskeleton and are now dead, since they have been on the beach and out of the salt water for some time. We just let the sea whips dry for weeks/months in a dry, protected place. Once they are dry they are fairly sturdy and pretty much stay the way they are for many years. I have some sea whips that are now 40 plus years old. Certainly, their color has faded some, but they are doing pretty well, considering their age. Hope this information is helpful. Maybe other people preserve them differently. If so, please offer other successful ways of doing so. I would be interested in hearing them.

      • Thanks for the info, Ken. I had a beautiful specimen…managed to get it back to Wisconsin in one piece. Made the mistake of placing the bag containing the whip on the floor. Our lovely dog, Cosmo, decided she rather liked the smell and taste of the sea whip. I awoke the next morning to pieces all over the dining room floor! I rescued what I could and now the pieces accent my shell collections on my mantle. Sigh. Will have to try and replace on my next trip to Sanibel!

        • Just another reason to get back on Sanibel. Find more sea whips!

      • Thanks MK! We love the input

  10. Hi Pam!
    This is what I was telling you about at the Sanibel Shellabration – I found two at Cayo, without the sea whips! They had bleached out a bit to almost a dark pink and were mixed in with other tiny shells. I had never found them before this year unattached.
    Every day a different treasure!!!

    • That’s right! I remember!

  11. Beautiful sea whips…so jealous! I like to collect them, too, and have hot-glued them to a large sticky mounting board (like those made for mounting needlework) that I’ve covered in burlap first (for that rugged, natural look). It is leaning on the back wall of a bookcase, without glass or a frame. Makes a nice backdrop for your other seashells. I might have sprayed them with clear spray paint first…I don’t remember….but it has maintained it’s deep purple color. Since it is out of harm’s way, it hasn’t broken either. Love it!

  12. Loved the lesson, thanks!

  13. Pam,

    I really enjoy the diversity you portray on your posts. I found this entry on the sea whips fascinating and very informative. Your photography is fabulous! I am looking forward to the next edition


  14. Thanks for the insight!! I’ll keep a watch on the ones I see up here in Mew England!! Will share if I see any.

    Thanks so much Pam!!

    Keep shelling my friends!!

    Mary Ann

  15. Fantastic stuff Pam… you are the best!

    Once in a while I have found this species in the beach drift here on Nevis, but the shells I find are always immature (they don’t have the thickened lip) and secondly they are always colorless by the time I find them. The immature ones are very fragile by the way.

  16. Beautiful! I love using them in arrangements.

  17. I love the purple sea whips. I have had a few with hitchhikers on them also. Starfish, coquinas. I make shadow boxes withe all the beach debris I find. I will post a picture of one when I take a picture of it

  18. Great information and photos. Bye the way, what’s the story on the moon for this Saturday?

  19. I would love to find a purple sea whip – something to look forward to on my next trip to Sanibel! I absolutely love & enjoy your blog so very much. I just have to take a minute & tell you thank you for your blog. It is my piece of Sanibel each time I open my email & see that there is a new post! Love the pictures also.

  20. I have found that a spray of a clear paint over dried sea collections eliminates residual odors. Make sure whatever you are preserving with the paint is good and dry,and be sure to dry thoroughly between coats. I have followed many tips for preserving urchins and my millipede sea stars but until I added a clear coat,I could still smell a slight odor up close even after cleaning treats me to and drying. I have a strong sense of smell so am admittedly more sensitive than most.

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