Have you ever wondered what are the most common seashells that wash up on Sanibel? We see them every day on the beach but all of those “little white CLAM shells” start to look the same and we tend to look over all of them in search for our favorites like the TULIPS and WHELKS.
If you have shelled the beaches of Southwest Florida several times, then you might not be surprised to hear…
The 6 most common shells found in beach drift on Sanibel, Florida are:
TRANSVERSE ARK (Anadara transversa), CROSS-BARRED VENUS (Chione elevata), PONDEROUS ARK (Noetia ponderosa), KITTENS PAW (Plicatula gibbosa), COQUINA (Donax variabilis) and the JINGLE (Anomia simplex).
They look pretty familiar don’t they?
The TRANSVERSE ARK (Anadara transversa) seashells are literally everywhere on our beaches and this is why it’s hard to find any other shell on the beach because we get so overwhelmed by looking at so many of these “little white clams shells”.
CROSS-BARRED VENUS (Chione elevata) shells always intrigue me because they have so many different interior colors.
PONDEROUS ARK (Noetia ponderosa) normally looks like just a bigger version of the TRANSVERSE ARK but when they are juveniles, it is really hard to tell the difference. Closely looking at the interior is the only way to decipher the juvie PONDEROUS from the adult TRANSVERSE.
KITTENS PAW (Plicatula gibbosa) – How can you walk on a beach in Sanibel and not smile when you see one of these?
COQUINA (Donax variabilis) shells have stolen the hearts of most of us the first time we walked on the beach and saw these sweet little butterfly shells scattered along the beach.
JINGLE (Anomia simplex) shells are like shimmering little beacons calling out from the sand- love them.
So how do I know that these are the most common shells on Sanibel? Well, because Susan Hewitt (our Susan H !) did a comprehensive but simple research study of the most abundance shell species while she was visiting Sanibel in 2011. She took loads of samples all along West Gulf Drive to separate and count each species. (This was not her sample bag in this next photo- she had buckets full)
I helped with her study by scooping up shells for her shell material research on the beach at Blind Pass Sanibel.
I also took samples at Sanibel’s Lighthouse beach for her.
After identifying, separating and counting every single shell collected, she got to work on writing her paper. To read her entire study paper, CLICK HERE
So now we know! It was so much fun being involved in her very cool project to answer the question asked about our beaches of Southwest Florida “What are the most common shells on Sanibel?”. Thanks Susan H for this awesome report!
The beaches of Sanibel and Captiva have been gorgeous this week with plenty of sunshine and warm breezes. But shelling has been hit or miss… to some people. In the past few days, I’ve been asked countless times “Where are the shells?”. That’s hard for me to answer since I saw this at Gulfside City Park beach today…
Uhmmmm. Those look like shells to me? There weren’t many WHELKS, TULIPS or CONES but this is how I look at it… if JUNONIAS and ALPHABET CONES were washing up on the beach every day, we would never see or learn about anything else that washes up on the beach. It would be nice at first seeing an ALPHABET soup of JUNONIAS but after a while it would kinda get old to people who come to the island every year. We do that with FIGHTING CONCHS at times. There’s no denying FIGHTING CONCHS are gorgeous shells but if you already collected 10 of them, you start to look for something else. So I always look forward to the days that make me slow down to look more closely to the shells I normally don’t “see”. Today I saw BROAD-RIBBED CARDITA shells. BROAD RIBBED CARDITAS are always on our beaches. I mean ALWAYS… but most of them have been sun bleached or worn so they look like lots of the other white BIVALVES. They are one of the most common shells in Southwest Florida but today they caught my eye because they were so colorful. Each one has a different color range of orange with some having stripes and some look like polka dots. Beauty is in the eye of the shell holder. These would be great craft shells for frames!
Anyway, there were a few other sweet shells out there too…
I also saw oodles of SEA WHIPS attached to PONDEROUS ARKS in the high tide wrack line. Most of the SEA WHIPS have lost their pretty yellow or purple colors and all that’s left is the black stem left attached to the ARK shell but this one still has a small portion of the golden yellow color still left on the stem like a sheath. Why do SEA WHIPS only seem to like to attach themselves to PONDEROUS ARKS? Of course I have a theory (I always have a theory whether its right or not- heehee). PONDEROUS ARKS have that wonderful thick black PERIOSTRACUM (skin) and they have wide ribs so SEA WHIPS have something pretty substantial to anchor themselves to. Most shells don’t have either of those features so it makes perfect sense to me, how about you? (To see a PONDEROUS ARK CLICK HERE)
Yes, those CARDITAS were pretty orange but this LETTERED OLIVE was my fave find of the day.
Oh wait- I take that back! This 33 inch, 15 pound SNOOK was my fave find of the day! I love everything there is to do on the beach and fishing is just one more thing I think is very cool. Just like shelling, you just never know what you’re gonna find. Some days you catch the big one and some days its just a nice excuse to be out in the sunshine.
Errrrrr…..Okay, I’ll fess up. This is kinda a fish tale…. “my fave find” was actually caught by a guy named Steve but I couldn’t wait to get my hands on that beautiful fish. I “found” it in Steve’s hands. Hahahaha. i Love Fishing too so next time I wanna reel one in!
Hey, Dont forget… Monday March 16, 2015 – Congress Jewelers are showcasing my Shellography with a wine and cheese gallery reception from 11am- 3pm. I’d love to meet y’all! Bring your fave finds in if you want me to ID them.
i heart seashells. Shells have a way of talking to us, don’t they? They make us feel deeply connected to the vast sea and pull us towards it. This PONDEROUS ARK shell washed up at my feet with a heart carved in it. Awwwwe, so sweet! I love you too! But hmmmm… other than being an oh-so-sweet message from King Neptune, how did this happen?
We see natural holes drilled in all sorts of shells, so it’s time to find out how they are made. The hole in this SHARKS EYE tells me a little secret of what happened to its life. The clue? It has a perfect countersunk borehole with a beveled edge twice the diameter as the inner diameter. Because of the shape of that hole, you can bet that he was eaten by another SHARKS EYE! OMG They are cannibals!
We have to guess what happened to this next guy because it looks like a fellow predator SHARKS EYE started carving up his next meal but stopped before he tasted victory.
By looking at the hole in this DISK DOSINIA, I’m going to assume that a SHARKS EYE made a meal out of this guy too.
Geez, SHARKS EYES have a smorgasbord of choices for their buffet. Looks as though they like BUTTERCUP LUCINES too.
A straight hole with only a slight beveled edge like this LADY-IN-WAITING VENUS CLAM …
…was most likely drilled by some sort of MUREX… like GULF OYSTER DRILLS. Aha! That’s why they are called “DRILLS”!
The grooves in these CROSS BARRED VENUS CLAMS and TRANSVERSE ARK aren’t the handiwork of the SHARKS EYE or DRILLS. These grooves were most likely made by a BRISTLE WORM. It uses a rasping technique with its bristled body while secreting acid to etch a groove in the shell to make a nice cozy place to rest.
If you have never seen a BRISTLE WORM, click on the video to watch the first time Clark and I came across a BRISTLE WORM…. and then come back to see what cute tokens they make. [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XCQpylW-x8E[/youtube]
Last May, Lisa from Shellabaloo 2 was having a great time sifting through shells at Blind Pass Captiva and found a few messages on shells she shared…
After Shellabaloo, she sent me this sweet CROSS-BARRED VENUS shell with a smiley face on it (made by a BRISTLE WORM). I keep it by my desk!
She also found a “K” on a CROSS BARRED VENUS…
Lisa was so thoughtful, she gave it to another Shellabaloo-er… Kendra. K for Kendra!
So let’s get back to that heart I received from King Neptune … 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. I already have an appreciation for them since they are quite the artists!
I just assumed that a shell with lots of little holes in like this was just from regular wear and rear by the salt and wave action… like when you wash and wear your favorite shirt too many times. One day, you’ll start to see holes in it! But some times shells that look like this tend to be “holey” because BORING SPONGES have invaded it as a living space.
I’ve always been drawn to shells that have holes for stringing them for crafts….
For gift tags…
And I always love to see someone string them for jewelry…
I would have never known where to start finding information on these cool holes in shells if Lisa from Shellabaloo 5 (OMG I just realized… both Lisas from different Shellabaloos are fascinated with holes in shells too! Ha! They need to know each other, wouldn’t you say?) anyway… I wouldn’t have known there was such a term as “Shell Bioerosion” and such if she hadn’t shown me where it was in this book Living Beaches of Georgia and the Carolinas .
There’s all kinds of fun to be had in exploring the common shells if you just give them a chance. They may even tell you a secret!
I spied thousands of ARKS at Gulfside City Park on Sanibel Island this morning. Most days you can find TRANSVERSE ARKS scattered along the beach since they are one of the most common shells on Sanibel.
There are a few different species of ARKS so let me show you the difference. Top row left to right- a MOSSY ARK and a TURKEY WING. Bottom row left to right- CUT-RIBBED ARK, TRANSVERSE ARK and a PONDEROUS ARK.
It’s a little easier to identify bivalves and see the difference (and the likeness) between them by looking at the interior of the shell.
I only had a few minutes to walk the beach today so I just wanted to look for minis in some of the wrack lines I pointed out the other day in my Shelling 101 video. I found TUSK SHELLS (there were thousands of those too), a KEYHOLE LIMPET, WENTLETRAPS, CERITHS, AUGERS, a TURRID, juvie CONCHS, juvie OLIVE, and a piece of CORAL.
I also found a somewhat beat up LINEATE DOVE SNAIL.
If you need any help identifying any of these shells, check out my Seashells Identification Page…
As I walked this morning, I couldn’t help but notice this amazing village sand sculpture on the beach- with its own arena and swimming pool. I was inspired to write about ARK SHELLS because so many artists like to use these sweet little white shells as embellishments for their pieces of art- just like this beach artist did. ARKS are perfect decorations for so many projects. Inspiring!
There are lots of shells at Blind Pass Captiva! Actually I’ve heard there are shells all along Sanibel too at morning low tide but I’m so happy I went to Blind Pass because I met Katie from Kansas who found all of the gorgeous shells in the photo above. Look at that huge, shiny BANDED TULIP and huge TURKEY WING she is holding! Here she is with her dad Mark…
I saw Dave and Peg from Cincinnati…
who showed me their incredible shells. Okay, normally I would be whooping it up about that perfect ALPHABET CONE (which deserves a big whoop!) but I could not take my eyes off that orange… yes, orange… FLAT SCALLOP! I rarely see them wash up that color so it’s exceptional that it’s so perfect and that dang big too! Congratshellations you guys!
I went to some other beaches late in the afternoon to see if the shells were like this as well…
But the tide was so high that it had covered most of the shell piles. So it looks like if you want to find shells like this right now…
you have to be shelling at low tide in the mornings.
The early bird catches the candy!
PS- No, I never found that ALPHABET CONE I thought I saw in my last video. Darn! But it was fun trying.
Now that you’ve met the members of the “Maiden Voyage” (cute name, Patty!) for the Shellebaloo on my last post, it’s time for a little seashell show and tell. I have 2 personal favorite shells found during our 3 days together (other than the LONG-SPINED STAR SHELL of course). The first shell is Carolyn’s absolutely perfect ALPHABET CONE…
And the other one is Sara’s COLORFUL MOON shell. There was questions about it being called a GAUDY NATICA so I explained that I used to call it that too but since the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum calls it the COLORFUL MOON, I figured I should start trying to call it that. Any way, here’s Sara and her beautiful shell…
Isn’t it beautiful? She told me this was her favorite find of the week. Good one!
I asked everybody else to get out their favorite shells to see which shells made them happiest so we gathered at the gazebo at our home base of the beautiful Island Inn to have a show and tell. Carolyn and Mike added a few to their faves along with her ALPHIE…
Amy showed me her teeny tiny juvie TURKEY WING…
Karen, Helen and Jackie chose an ALPHABET CONE, TOP SHELL, LACE MUREX (notice that sweet little pink nose) and a KING’S CROWN…
Sally and Jim collected a beautiful assortment of different shells to name a few like the green cap filled with TUSK SHELLS, a BRUISED NASA, TINTED CANTHARUS, WHITE MELAMPUS, COFFEE MELAMPUS, a SEA PEARL, a CLOUDY PERIWINKLE (inside the BUTTERCUP LUCINE), and a WENTLETRAP. Nice, huh?
Traci and Rob found the SANIBEL SIX…
But when I asked Traci what her one favorite shell was, she told me it was definitely the double OYSTER…
JoAnn and Sid’s favorites were the RIBBED CANTHARUS, COFFEE COFFEE BEAN TRIVIA and ANGEL WING…
Isn’t this fun seeing which shells make people happy? Well, this next one made me very happy and made me laugh out loud! Maureen laughed then told us that her favorite shells were speaking to her… maybe by aliens or through hieroglyphics on CROSS BARRED VENUS shells. LOL Now that’s a gal that has a great sense of humor!
This is quite a seashell collection by Kathy and Bill for their favorites. Love, Love that WORMIE (WORM SHELL) and ALPHIE for sure! And I saw that piece of CORAL in her shell bag and “may” have influenced her to put that in her faves too. (oops! but I was so drawn to it! So pretty!). Of course I love the others too… NUTMEG, LACE MUREX, BANDED TULIP, BUBBLE, FIG, SEA PEARL and angel wing.
Arabelle chose a BABY’S EAR, WHITE MELAMPUS and a SEA PEARL as her favorites. I am so tickled she found that BABY’S EAR!
Last but not least was the awesome LONG-SPINED STAR SHELL Joe and Patty found along with some of their other faves… a PURPLISH TAGELUS, TUSK and a KING’S CROWN to name a few.
I love how easy it was for everybody to pick through all of their shells to narrow it down to the ones that meant the most to them. Each person sees something different in each shell whether it is color, pattern, markings, size, shape or just the location of where they found it. They were all so happy with what they found!
PS- Stay tuned because I have a surprise for you on my next post! We might have another get together soon!