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!
If you are looking for shells on Sanibel but you aren’t having any luck finding “the big ones”, you should revisit those common shells that are always on our beaches. There’s not a day that goes by that our beaches aren’t filled with CROSS-BARRED VENUS shells. Each one is different with their colors and patterns. They are a shell crafters dream seashell!
Walking the beach yesterday at Gulfside City Park, Clark and I were only finding the common shells until Clark took a blind scoop in the water scooped up alive BABYS EAR in his shelling backhoe. He laughed and handed it to me… it was shaped like a heart! So cute! Of course, I snapped a photo then placed it back into the water under the sand.
Just a few days before, we were finding all sorts of treasures in the water at Gulfside City Park.
It just goes to show you that every day on Sanibel is a treasure hunt. You just never know what you will find so I always try to find something… anything… just any reason to get out on the beach. Then it becomes such a treat when you find a handful of shelliciousness with a dollop of cumulus clouds like this…
Speaking of finding special treasures… our iLoveShelling community was involved in finding a lost engagement ring on the beach! The story even ended up in our local paper The Islander…
Sharon Michie of Cottages To Castles suggested to her client Nancy Carr that she tell her story of her lost diamond engagement ring to the iLoveShelling community on Facebook. It worked! Barbara Anderson replied with a suggestion to call TheRingFinders and within 6 hours, her ring was found. It had been buried 14 inches under the sand and they still found it!
Shellers rock! …. And shellers find “rocks” (heehee). Sometimes it takes a Sanibel Social Shelling Village to find treasures. This is the photo with me, Craig Ostendorf of TheRingFinders.com (with the ring) and Sharon Michie. Sharon shipped the ring to Nancy who is now back home in Canada. Happy Ending!
PS- Since we are talking all about happy stuff…. Clark was golfing yesterday (with his buddy John) – he got a Hole In One! His first ever and it was on the Sunday of The Masters. He felt like he found a left handed JUNONIA- hahaha.
How could anyone think KITTENS PAWS aren’t cute? It was like it had rained KITTEN’S PAWS yesterday since there were so many on the beach at Blind Pass Captiva. Here’s a cyber shelling photo so you can virtually pick through the piles and find some yourself. Enjoy!
Also mixed in were hundreds of TRANSVERSE ARKS…
Oodles of CROSS BARRED VENUS clams…
And a few LADY-IN-WAITING VENUS clams mixed in too…
I would say that the KITTEN’S PAWS, CROSS BARRED VENUS and the TRANSVERSE ARKS are the most common shells on Sanibel but I’m still not convinced what the top six commons shells are. I just loved seeing so many LADY-IN-WAITING VENUSes mixed in too, I wanted to show you those. They are so pretty and I normally never pay attention to them. When I don’t have a lot of time, I need to stay out of the sun for a bit or we are having lots of scattered showers, I just like to stop by the beach for a short time and enjoy all of the shells that I seem to neglect the rest of the year. Most of the shells in this next photo are all bivalves…. they did not let me neglect them this time.
PS- I have no idea how that board got there. I guess it washed up?
I started thinking about summer projects this week so I revisited some of my blog photos for inspiration. Bingo! The 74th Sanibel Shell Fair and Show was last month … and it gave me a great idea for both me and you. I thought I’d find out some of the secrets of shell crafting so I asked how 2011 Blue Ribbon and Judges’s Special Award winner Barb Walling made her “Dandelions” piece. We will get to learn every detail of how this piece was made by the artist herself!
Barb was gracious enough to invite me over to her Sanibel home to see where the magic begins. She first showed me how she organizes her shells that she picks up off the beach after she washes and dries them.
She categorizes each box or drawer by the shell name. This one is the SEMELE which she uses as the base to the dandelion and most of her shell flowers.
From here, I’m gonna let her tell you how everything else is done. Sit back, relax and let your imagination roll…
How ’bout that, huh? Here’s a close up of the SEMELE she talked about ……
….and the CROSS BARRED VENUS
This is a dead PURPLE SEA URCHIN that washed up on the beach with some of it’s spines still attached.
This is a close up of Barb’s SEA URCHIN spines. That’s a lot of SEA URCHINS!
Thank you so much for the shell craft lesson, Barb! Can’t wait to see what you create for next year’s 75th Anniversary of Sanibel Shell Fair and Show.
I needed a little shelling pick-me-up yesterday since I’ve had “technical difficulties” in the blog world the last few days. Since the gulf has been a little rough caused by south winds, I thought I might find some goodies at Blind Pass.
The Sanibel side of Blind Pass was …well, empty of shells. Where’d they go?
I ran over to the Captiva side to find the beach with even a bigger drop-off than last week. Looked like nothing to me. There were a few people working the ledge but I decided to go back to the east end of Sanibel.
On the way back to the parking lot, I met Bob, Lucy and Linda sorting their shells in the back of their car. I can’t believe they found all of these on that ledge I showed you. It looked bare to me.
Shame on me for not looking a little harder at that ledge. Look at these beautiful shells… and especially that large, perfect LIGHTNING WHELK on the left.
The surf was kicking up around the east end of Sanibel but the beach didn’t look like it was piled with shells. Then I started focusing on the wash line a little bit better since I learned my lesson and missed so many at Blind Pass. There were actually some nice shells…… and nice folks.
I met another Sani-Belle on the beach! I met some of the Sani-Belle sisters and mom Mermaid Ella in January at Blind Pass (Click HERE for the post) so I was tickled to meet sister Sani-Belle Muriel too.
Like I said, there wasn’t a huge wrack of shells on the beach but she was still happy with what she was finding. I guess so! Look at that nice size BABY’S EAR! In her hand from left to right is a SCALLOP, a CARDITA, another SCALLOP, that big beautiful BABY’S EAR, a CROSS BARRED VENUS and a COCKLE.
This picture above was taken of Muriel’s 92 year old mom in January when I nicknamed her Mermaid Ella. I wanted to show you this photo again because most of the shells that Muriel and the other Sani-Belles collect are “materials” (that’s what they call the shells) for frames that Mermaid Ella makes. She showed me this one……
Isn’t that beautiful? Shells don’t have to perfect to be beautiful. Imperfect is just as beautiful if you look at them in a different view like in this frame. This just makes me smile. And I also smile thinking of some other artists that make beautiful decor and jewelry from beach treasures…. perfect or not.
Maria is so clever to design wine charms from seashells with holes in them…..
Create gorgeous pieces of art from beach treasures that someone else might consider to be beach “litter”…..
I also have another artist friend Rhonda who collects “drift shells” to make beautiful art frames too.
So I’m going to remember Mermaid Ella and these other artists who get excited to see bits and pieces of shells on the beach. This is exactly what gets their creative juices flowing for their shellicious decor and jewelry. Thanks yall for the pick-me-up I really needed!