Archive for Seashells

Jul
18

i Love Learning About Pen Shell Pearls

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Stiff Pen Shell with Blister pearl

While talking to Gary on our iLoveShelling shelling cruise last week, he told me about four huge HORSE CONCHS and other great shells he and his family Cameron, Mary and Lauren found on Sanibel during their visit from Nashville. Amazing!

Cameron, Mary, Lauren and Gary with large shells found in Sanibel

He also asked me if PEN SHELLS could make PEARLS and I immediately answered “It’s rare to find the PEARLS washed up on the beach but… Yes they can!”. He found something that looked like a PEARL inside a PEN SHELL while looking for other shells like TRUE TULIPS which can hide or get trapped inside them (CLICK HERE for a video to show this). Of course I had to see it.

Gary and Lauren from Tennessee find a blistered Pen shell pearl

If you look closely, you can see a milky circle on the inside of his shell and at about “9 o’clock” on that circle (the MOLLUSK’s muscle scar where it was connected to the shell) you can see a little ball on the shell. That’s a PEARL.

Stiff Pen shell muscle scar with blister pearl

This type of PEARL is called a BLISTER PEARL. Cool! BLISTER PEARLS are attached to the shell so mostly likely the PEARL would break if he tried pop it out to make any jewelry from it but it’s still cool for him to have seen it…. questioned it…. and ask me about it so we can all learn more.

Blister Pearl on the shell of a Stiff Pen shell

The only reason I knew anything about PEN SHELL PEARLS was by seeing my friend Rachel Fields’ scientific display at the Sanibel Shell Festival this year…about Natural Pearls and being fascinated by her blue ribbon exhibit.

rachel fields natural pearls display sanibel shell festival

After sending her photos of Gary’s PEN SHELL, she responded by saying…

That does look like a pearl!  It’s called a blister pearl when formation occurs and the growth is still attached to the shell”.  

Then she explained “When pearls form often times it happens because some exterior object kind of puts pressure on and crushes the shell inward causing a piece of the shell to fall off into the body of the mollusk and if it happens near the mantle the mollusk will secrete a protective coating around that piece of shell that’s broken off.  Sometimes it happens far away from the shell and more internal which causes free-formed pearls and sometimes it happens up against the side of the shell which causes the pearl to form merged to the shell (and is called a blister pearl)”.

Now you can see from Gary’s shell that his PEARL formed against the shell and it still attached…. a BLISTER PEARL. Yep, it’s just like our type of skin blisters although we make just fluid inside our blister instead of a PEARL, right? When I get a blister, I’d much rather go through the pain to get a PEARL instead of crummy fluid. LOL

Formed blister pearl in stiff pen shell

When a PEN SHELL produces a FREE-FORM PEARL, it can be a gorgeous lustrous PEARL like Rachel showed in her exhibit. The problem with finding pretty PEN PEARLS is that they crack easily after a week or two and if they do make it without cracking, it may take about 4 or 5 years for them to become pearlescent.

Pen shell Atrina rigida with Pearl

But when they don’t crack and become lustrous…. Gorgeous!

Pen shell pearl from Atrina rigida

Rachel was kind enough to share more information from her Natural Pearl presentation, so I thought it would be easier to publish a page dedicated to her research- CLICK HERE. This will probably answer all of your questions because it answered mine! Like… “What other shells make PEARLS?”.

She shows us QUAHOGS…

Mercenaria Quahog pearls

QUEEN CONCHS produce PEARLS as well- They are pink! Captain Brian let me borrow his book Pink Pearl: A Natural Treasure of the Caribbean before we went on a shelling trip to Turks and Caicos last year so I could study up and keep my eye out for them. Of course its like looking for a needle in a haystack but you bet your bottom sand dollar… I searched. After I returned Capt Brian’s book, I realized how stinkin expensive it is- wow! (so happy I didn’t damage it!) If you have an extra copy laying around that’s not expensive, let me know- Rachel should have a copy!

Strombus gigas queen conch pink pearls

This one should really get your goat… a LION’S PAW. Oh my! Just to find a LION’S PAW is special… but to find a LION’S PAW PEARL? That would send me two clouds above nine!

Nodipecten subnodosus Lions Paw Pearls

Thank you Gary, Mary, Cameron and Lauren for coming on the iLoveShelling cruise with me and asking me about your PEN SHELL PEARL and also to Rachel (NYC) for sharing so much invaluable information with all of us about Natural Pearls. This is another example about why i Love Shelling, Shellers and the Shelling Community! It’s so edshellcational!

CLICK HERE to see and learn more from Rachel’s Natural Pearls exhibit and more photos.

rachel fields natural pearl exhibit

Jul
06

Never Desperate Beachcombers

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beach combing sanibel for sea shells

CLAMS, SCALLOPS and OYSTER shells. That’s what we’ve been seeing washed up on Sanibel beaches this week. Some experienced beachcombers might think this is a little boring since they have plenty of these bivalves and there weren’t many WHELKS and CONCHS to fill up their shell bag. But we always find interesting things and when Clark and I met Ilene, Dawn, Hudson and Ethan from St Petersburg, FL we saw they weren’t disappointed at this gorgeous evening either.

Dawn Ilene Hudson and Ethan love beachcombing

Ethan picked up an ARK SHELL with a hole in it and began telling me why certain shells drill holes in different areas of other shells. Oh wow- I just did a post on the different holes in shells last month so I wanted to know more. He told me that the further away the hole is from the hinge (what I call the “nose”), the predator mollusk is more stressed. If the predator drills near the hinge, he can get to all of the meat easily…but the shell is thicker there so it may take longer to drill. If the predator mollusk drilling the hole into the other mollusk is pretty desperate, he picks a spot that’s thinner and easier to drill but may not get much meat since the other mollusk might fight back or can slip away easier. A sign of a desperado. Thanks so much for such cool information, Ethan! BTW, Ethan teaches classes about Paleoceanography .

If I didn’t put you asleep on that explanation and you think this stuff is interesting too, here’s a photo of what I’m talking about. See the DOSINIA on the left with the perfect hole in the nose area and then look at the hole in the desperate CALICO CLAM with the hole in the middle of the shell. Why so desperate Mr. Murex? Okay, I’m not positive it’s a MUREX that made the hole but in my humble opinion, it sure looks like an OYSTER DRILL hole (part of the MUREX family). Take a look at my other post What Makes The Different Holes In Seashells?

holes in mollusk sea shells

Okay, lets get back to the beautiful shells… While we were all talking near Lighthouse Beach, Ilene showed me her pretty DOSINIA then I saw Hudson reach down and pick “candy” (juvie HORSE CONCH) right out of the shells at our toes. Clark then made a scoop in the water and pulled out a TRUE TULIP then gave it to them. Hmmmm, the shells looked like they were starting to come in but it was getting too dark to see.

shoulda focused on seashells

Dawn just posted on iLoveShelling Facebook page this morning that they found all of these shells at Lighthouse Beach. Yes! The WHELKS and CONCHS are finally coming in… not that we were feeling desperate or anything. LOL

photo by Dawn Goddard

Thanks for posting, Dawn! Looks like we are going to be heading to Lighthouse Beach today to find some mermaid treasure but I’m really looking forward to our iLoveShelling cruise to Cayo Costa tomorrow with Captiva Cruises.

sea shell mermaid in the sand

Join us and receive a $25  gift certificate for jewelry from Sealife By Congress. Call 239-472-5300 to reserve your spot for 9am.

shelling adventures trips by pam

Sight Sea-R Cruises shelling excursion

Our first iLoveShelling Sight Sea-R Cruise was even better than I could ever even imagined! This brand new Sight Sea-R boat proved to be the absolutely perfect shelling excursion with plenty of room to take our 48 amazing shellers to this new shelling destination only accessible by boat… Big Hickory Island.

shells found on iLoveShelling shelling adventure cruiseshells found on iLoveShelling shelling adventure cruise

Not only is the island filled with our favorite treasures (shells, of course)….

sharks eye shell found on iLoveShelling cruise

We kicked this shelling adventure off with lots of other goodies too. Giveaways! Clark and I brought a big bucket of Sanibel Six shells so everybody could pick out a lucky shell to get things started.  Then we treated everybody to iLoveShelling waterproof Seashell Identification guides, bumper stickers and had raffle prizes for hats and tee shirts. So. Much. Fun.

i Love Shelling giveaway prizes

Our biggest surprise was from Mary and Jana of Sealife By Congress- my fave jewelry store. You won’t believe it, they gave every single person on this cruise a sterling silver sealife charm. Seriously. They came on the boat with large baskets filled with beautiful pieces of jewelry and let us all pick our gift of hand made sterling silver dolphin, starfish, sand dollars, scallops and yes… even junonia charms. So sweet!

Mary and Jana of Sealife By Congress

Texas cutie cousins Pat, Pam, Kay, Peggy, Debby and Linda were thrilled to all receive such a gracious gift of jewelry. Thank you Sealife By Congress!

 

pat pam kay peggy debby linda texas cousins with jewelry prizes

Let me tell you… this boat turned into a parrrr-taayyy!

happy shellers on shelling cruise

So to top it off, on the boat ride to the island we spotted lots of different wildlife. There were dozens of species of birds but we were most excited about seeing many ROSEATE SPOONBILLS…

roseate spoonbill with ibis sighting

We also saw a rare sighting of a SEA TURTLE popping out of the water and we also witnessed countless pods of BOTTLENOSE DOLPHIN.

dolphin sight seeing on shelling excursion

This was already so much fun and we hadn’t even starting shelling yet. But I was soooo ready… especially since I saw Holly had made a special shell bucket for herself with “My Shell Holl” on it- heehee. She also made one for her husband Ted that said “Collect-Ted Shells” and she made one for me with “My Pamtastic Shells”. OMG So stinkin cute.pam Ted Holly with Pamtastic shell buckets

We were all ready to hit the beach to find shells. And we did! Sandy from Fort Myers Beach’s newspaper The Island Sand Paper found some awesome shells to make her smile. Go back and take a look at the second photo from the top, those are her shells- See? Awesome.

Sandy from Sand Paper with seashells from Sight Sea-R Cruise

We couldn’t believe how many WORM SHELLS we all found…

worm shells found on shelling cruise

And lots of SHARK’S EYES…

sharks eye shell found on iLoveShelling cruise

During the boat ride back, I asked how many people found CONE shells (and not ones they picked from the “lucky bucket”) and 19 shellers raised their hands. Wow!

shells found on sight sea-r shelling cruise

I’m always so happy to meet families that shell together. Christine, Anthony, Paula, Bryce and Dominic (from VT and MA) were such a pleasure to talk to.

christine anthony paula bryce (VT) dominic mass on cruise

I asked Bryce what his favorite thing about the cruise was and he reminded me that together we saved a SEA HARE that got washed up on the beach. We put the SEA HARE back in the water and after a minute, he revived and swam away- that was his favorite moment. I asked Anthony what his favorites were and he immediately showed me his ROSE PETAL TELLINS (with 2 COCQUINAS as well).

rose petal tellins

Brooke and Josh from Georgia had favorites too…  SAND DOLLARS.
brooke and josh georgia found sand dollars on shelling excursion

Clark and I loved hearing Keri (also from the Sand Paper) tell about shelling bringing back so many memories of her childhood while shelling with her grandmother. I think that’s why we love it so much… we explore the beach like we are kids again and remember those days.

sight sea-r cruises shelling adventure

Thank you Captain Phil and Meg for such a great adventure!

Captain Phil and Meg on Sight Sea-R Shelling Cruise

I still can’t believe how exciting every moment was with perfect weather seeing DOLPHINS, ROSEATE SPOONBILLS, OSPREY, PELICANS, a SEA TURLE, lots of seashells and the best group of people Clark and I could wish for.

Clark and Pam Rambo on shelling cruise

To make a fairy tale ending, on our way back to the dock we watched the sun set over the Sanibel Lighthouse…

Sunset over Sanibel lighthouse

It was a very special day to remember. Oh but wait… I still have more photos and I have just a few more things I want to share with you about this day on my next post. The surprises continue!

watching sunset on shelling boatThank you Sight Sea-R Cruises!

You can catch a cruise too. Hop on a regularly scheduled shelling cruise on the Sight Sea-R to Big Hickory every Wednesday at 10am, Call 239-765-7272 or go to the website at http://www.sightseaflorida.comYou won’t be disappointed.

If you want to catch an iLoveShelling shelling adventure with me as your guide (once a month), CLICK HERE

shelling adventures trips by pam

 

Jun
18

Gold Banded Cone Saga Continues

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true gold banded alphabet cone

This is truly a GOLD-BANDED CONE. There was lots of controversy over this CONE shell on last week’s post Gold-Banded Cone Found On Sanibel Island and ever since that post, the saga has continued…

true gold banded alphabet cone Conus spurius atlanticus

From the moment Clark and I saw the photo of Clair’s three GOLD BANDED CONES (GBCs), we knew we needed to look through our collection again. Remember I said… “I think it time to go looking through all of our CONES just to make sure we didn’t overlooked one”? Well Clark got it done. He sat out on our back porch (on our very funky yard sale couch) and sorted through bin after bin of CONES that we’ve picked up over the years which just got stock piled in our Shellaboratory.

clark sorting alphabet cone shells

We try to keep the perfect specimen type ALPHABET CONE shells inside the house displayed in a bowl…

bowl of alphabet cone soup

But the ones in the Shellaboratory are from days shelling we didn’t have time to sort because we had to run back out to some type of appointment or obligation. But lots of the shells were ones that had chips with broken lips and tips. Aint that a trip?  (sorry…I couldn’t resist)

damaged alphabet cones

We try to give most of our shells away and only collect different color variations or unusual ones but still…  the shells stack up. We try to put the really special shells to the side when we find them… but life happens. The good news is, Clark was on a mission.

alphabet cones from sw florida

Then low and behold… a GOLD BANDED CONE! Holy Cowrie! Clark knew he had found one! Shellzam!

true gold banded alphabet cone

After looking at so many variations of CONES in the shell sorting mission, let me show you how closely some of the CONES look alike. In the next photo, the far left is a FLORIDA CONE that looks like a smaller version of the ALPHABET CONE second from the left but the FLORIDA CONE has the tall and wide spire (tip) compared to the smooshed in ALPHABET spire. You can see spots on that same ALPHABET (second to the left) but the GOLD BANDED CONE (which is a rare color form of the ALPHABET CONE) has stripes instead of the spots – that’s what makes it different. So now back to comparing the GOLD BANDED CONE with the FLORIDA CONE on the far right. You can definitely see stripes on the FLORIDA CONE but it just looks like a darker version until you look at the spire again- yep, much taller and wider spire.

Like our friend Mary McBride said about the GBC- it looks like an alphabet when the printer ran out of ink”. LOL 

difference between alphabet, gold banded cone and florida cone

While sorting, Clark set aside some of his favorites. This photo really doesn’t do these alphies as much justice as they deserve but each one of these CONES has a remarkable pattern and/or color. Each are the same species but with different color forms caused by either food source or environmental like temperature changes, repairing damage, getting transported in a storm or countless other theories. It’s really what makes shell collecting so mind blowing.

alphabet cone patterns Conus spurius atlanticusv

Now we have our GBC in a little case that sits in the bowl with the other ALPHABETS just to make sure it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. We took it in to see Larry at Seashells.com and they immediately gave Clark this box with cotton to keep it safe- thank you Gary! We rarely encase shells because we enjoy the raw beauty of them too much but for right now this one feels way too special. It is  staying in the box. We still can’t believe we have it.

special gold banded cone in a box with other alphabet cones

But of course I had to take it out of the box to get one last photo with all of the ALPHABETS together. OMG I love how it looks! All of those colors and spots and dots!

colorful alphabet cones

FYI- I made the photo above into a small puzzle for a gift to a friend of mine. Just in case you want one too, CLICK HERE. (for a larger puzzle CLICK HERE) . This next photo is the bowl that is going IN the house. These are too nice for the Shellaboratory!

color forms alphabet cones Conus spurius atlanticus

Let me preface this with… This next GOLD-BANDED CONE is not ours. This photo came from a friend (wants to be anonymous) that wanted to show this specimen so we could have another example for identification purposes. Un-be-liev-able right? The rich, dark gold stripes are magnificent!

gold banded cone SNKv

After seeing all of these ALPHABET CONES, GOLD BANDED CONES and even comparisons with FLORIDA CONES mixed all together, we are never going to toss “special” shells into a batch of ordinary shells we collect from the beach…. errrrr but wait… they are ALL “special”! Each one has it’s own unique pattern and color! Ack! How can we decide? Maybe less is more? Humph… It’s too much to think about. As Scarlett Ohara said “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.

shelling adventures trips by pam

Categories : Gold-banded Cone
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Jun
16

Full Moon Rises, Shelling Tide Lowers

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shells found at Blind Pass Captiva June

During the low tide evenings this past week, we didn’t find gobs of shells on Sanibel or Captiva but we found the best empty beauties in the Blind Pass channel in between Sanibel and Captiva. With the full moon causing extreme tides, the water rushes through the pass so quickly at the lowest tide (ankle deep) I like to just wait for the shells to roll by my feet by near the jetty rocks. If you want to see a video from last year that shows how they roll by CLICK HERE

sea shells found in the channel at Blind Pass Captiva Island

We also hit the low tide at the Lighthouse Beach…

low tide shelling sanibel

This was my favorite night last week because I met Michayla from Pensacola with lots of beautiful shells in her shell bag…

Michayla from Pensacola finds sea shells on Sanibel Island Florida

I also met Paige and her mom Nikkie from Kentucky. It’s always so much fun to meet new friends that love shelling as much as I do!

Paige and Nikkie from Kentucky visit Sanibel collecting seashells

And lookie who else was shelling at Lighthouse Beach… our good friends Susan and Lee from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. They definitely love shelling as much as Clark and I do.

Susan and Lee from GTMO visit Sanibel Island Florida

It’s always so much fun to see the live creatures at ow tide like FIGHTING CONCHS…

Live fighting conch seashell on Sanibel Island Florida

I’m not absolutely positive, but I believe that this is a SEA HARE EGG STRING. Seriously, it was this color… almost turquoise!

sea hare Eudisoma hepaticum egg string

We are very used to seeing SEA PORK at low tide but this SEA LIVER looks a little different because it’s flatter and a little slimier. They are dark purple when still alive then turn whitish when they die so I’m assuming part of this colony on the right has already died off and the left side is still hanging on. Of course after I took this photo, I returned this colonial tunicate to the tidal pool where I found it.

sea liver Eudisoma hepaticum

So while we were shelling Lighthouse and Blind Pass… Gary, Jane, Anna, Claire and Ella from Arkansas were shelling near Tarpon Beach when they hit  a VERY sweet honey hole. Gary said ” Just at the shelf line we found a PEN SHELL bed. After about 2 hours of digging we had 8 large horse conchs – our best shell hunt ever!”  I’m sure this will be a day in their lives they will never ever forget. Shellzam!

Gary Jane Anna Claire and Ella from Arkansas find 8 horse conchs

I love summer evenings walking the beach when the sun doesn’t set until way after 8pm then the full moon rises to brighten the sky and pull at the sea.

Sanibel full moon over Gulf of Mexico

full moon over palm trees

Jun
14

The Chimney Clam Beach Sweep

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Stimpson chimney clam Rocellaria stimpsonii drills hole into florida fighting conch

Aha! Another mystery solved. This is the little bugger that makes some of the holes in our seashells… a tiny little STIMPSON CHIMNEY CLAM. Remember the heart I found carved in this PONDEROUS ARK (from King Neptune)? Well, there must have been two STIMPSON CHIMNEY CLAMS drilling into this shell to make that design or there was one mighty CLAM on a mission from the heart.

drilled heart in seashell

Either way you “cut” it, this is one little destructive dude of a STIMPSON CHIMNEY CLAM (Rocellaria stimpsonii) 

Stimpson chimney clam Rocellaria stimpsonii

I was absolutely thrilled to see both valves of this CLAM together (I know, go ahead and say it LooLoo… I’m a real shell geek LOL)…

Stimpson chimney clam side view Rocellaria stimpsonii

So we can have a better understanding of why some shells look like this…

holes in seashells made by stimpson chimney clam

In my post What Makes The Different Holes In Seashells? , I wrote…

 … these bigger holes most likely were drilled by a STIMPSON CHIMNEY CLAM. Oh, What? You’ve never heard of a STIMPSON CHIMNEY CLAM before? LOL Well, neither had I before I got so curious about what made that heart shape and found out that two separate drilled incidences by these clams are the most likely culprit. When I find a STIMPSON CHIMNEY CLAM, you will be the first one to know about it and I will post a photo. “

Well I didn’t find one but MurexKen did! He found this FLORIDA FIGHTING CONCH with both valves of the STIMPSON CHIMNEY CLAM still remaining in the crevice it carved out when it was still alive. This CLAM doesn’t bore into shells and coral to eat as a food source- it’s a Suspension Feeder so it captures food particles from the water somewhat like a filter feeder. It bores holes into shells and coral to use as a place to live… like a cozy little nest.

Stimpson chimney clam Rocellaria stimpsonii with florida fighting conch

Great find MurexKen! Thanks so much for sharing this with me so we can all learn such cool stuff about the the mysteries of our oceans. Now that I know what this shell looks like, I can’t wait to find one of my own (along with the GOLD-BANDED CONEof course). So catch ya later alligator, out to the beach for a CHIMNEY sweep!

Stimpson chimney clam shell Rocellaria stimpsonii makes hole in florida fighting conch

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