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

i Love Learning About Pen Shell Pearls

Posted by on Jul 18, 2014 in Lion's Paw, Lion's Paw Pearls, Pearls- Natural Pearls, Pen Shell, Pen Shell Blister Pearl, Pen Shell Pearl, Quahog Pearl, Quahog Shell, Stiff Pen Shell Blister Pearl, Stiff Pen Shell Free-Form Pearl | 17 comments

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, Rachel 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

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Bringing On The Beachcombing

Posted by on Mar 28, 2014 in Alternate Tellin, Banded tulip, Helmet, Lion's Paw, Long-Spined Urchin, Rocksnail, Tarpon Beach Sanibel, Thorny Oyster, West Indian Sea Egg | 16 comments

Finding seashells on Sanibel Island Florida on Tarpon Beach

There is nothing more exciting than seeing shells line the beach as far as the horizon.

shells for miles on Sanibel Island Florida

At Tarpon Road beach access (mid island on Sanibel)… that’s what we saw yesterday- miles of shells. Amy from Alabama was a happy girl be able to witness this beautiful site as well.

Amy from Huntsville finds shells on Sanibel Island Florida

She found oodles of APPLE MUREXES and FIGHTING CONCHS in a wide assortment of colors, patterns and textures along with some other beauties.

seashells collected at Tarpon Beach Sanibel Island

I ooohed and ahhhed over her best find (well, her best find to me anyway) which was this ROCK SHELL. Its not often I see these shells so I was excited for Amy that she found one.

rock shell at Tarpon Bay Rd Beach

I saw Ellie from Wisconsin holding her hand in a way to protect something delicate.

ellie from Wisconsin finds shells in Florida

It was a gorgeous double ALTERNATE TELLIN with colors of yellow, pink and mauve. It looks like a beautiful butterfly!

holding a Sanibel seashell

I was thrilled to find a LONG-SPINED URCHIN and a WEST INDIAN SEA URCHIN to add to my mix of treasures (OLIVES, CONCHS, TINTED CANTHARUS, NUTMEG, ROUGH SCALLOP, dark rich BANDED TULIP, a WORMIE and …. candy!)

sea urchins and shells collected on Sanibel Island

Then I walked the beach at BLIND PASS Sanibel to see Michelle from Illinois (right) with her family Mary, Mike, Patti and Molly. she was carrying a strange looking shell so I stopped her.

mary mike patti molly michelle from illinois shelling sanibel

OMG its the lip of verrrry large HELMET shell. Wow! HELMETS are from Caribbean so to see the lip of that shell in such good shape and color was impressive. She also found a nice THORNY OYSTER too. Good eye, Michelle!

helmet lip and thorny oyster

I saw Justin and Jeff from Connecticut scooping in the water and Bonnie combing the beach about a mile from the pass (the furthest point in the background).

justin bonnie jeff conn shelling sanibel

They were having a ball finding some really nice shells like TULIPS, WHELKS and huge COCKLES. They said they were just as happy to find shells as being here to enjoy this awesome weather.

justins shells

Krystal S posted on iLS Facebook all the shells they found yesterday morning at Blind Pass Sanibel….

shells by Krystal S Facebook

Molly P posted there as well to show us she found this LIONS PAW this week on the Captiva side of Blind Pass. Congratshellations, to all of you!

lions paw Molly P facebook

Keep ’em coming, Mother Nature!

Sanibel beach filled with shells

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Smell The Salt In The Sanibel Captiva Air

Posted by on Mar 12, 2014 in Blind Pass, Captiva, Flat Zigzag Scallop, Lion's Paw, Sand Dollar, Strawberry cockle | 19 comments

The beach will color your world

Sunny blue skies, aqua water and warm breezes have filled our beach days in Southwest Florida this week- it’s been absolutely gorgeous!

seashells on the beach- Captiva Island Florida

But last week, we had some dark skies, rain and a cool (60s) weather front from the west move through to bring some unusual shells. Susan from Wisconsin found what looked to be an AMERICAN STAR-SHELL at Lighthouse Beach. That is a common shell in Caribbean waters but not often on Sanibel or Captiva. UPDATE: MurexKen notified me that this is most likely a MACULATED TOP SHELL which is from IndoPacific region…. NOT an AMERICAN STAR-SHELL. Oops!

susan from wisconson found an american star shell sanibel

Check out my post from our Road Trip To The Florida Keys to see our AMERICAN STAR-SHELLS we found there to compare this…

American star-shell found on sanibel island

Then compare it to the MACULATED TOP SHELL at . Yes, he’s absolutely right- it’s not a shell that is found in our area… it’s what I call a “Wedding Shell”. Folks who decorate for weddings and parties on our beaches buy bags of shells (which originate in the Philippines or other IndoPacific areas)  then spread them on the beach for decoration. Then they get washed out by the tide or thrown in and the shell gets washed up again to have a collector like  Susan pick it up. I will do a post on these “Wedding Shells” very soon- I promise since this happens way too often. Thank you MurexKen for pointing it out to me!

susan found an american star shell on Sanibel island

Okay- lets get back to the beach….

I saw the Shellucky Luckett Ladies again at the beach last week too when that cold front came through. Cuties!

shellucky luckett ladies shelling sanibel

Martha (far right in the Shellucky Luckett Ladies photo) found this amazing LIONS PAW! Shellzam! See? Thats why they are called “Shellucky”!

martha's lions paw

When the sun came out and the weather warmed up, I headed to Captiva to do my favorite type of beach combing and experience the art of shelling…. SMELL the salt in the air, FEEL the sand between your toes, LISTEN to Beach Sounds by Mother Nature, LOOK at the seascapes and seashells, and RELAX.

beachcombing Captiva Florida

On my journey, I saw this…

zig zag flat scallop cybershelling

Such a gift. Thank you Mother Nature for this beautiful ZIG ZAG FLAT SCALLOP!

beautiful flat scallop Captiva Florida

But even better, I found a STRAWBERRY COCKLE! I know it doesn’t look like much and these are more common in the Caribbean as well, but they just aren’t common here so it’s always a happy day to find one (I think this makes only 4 in our collection from Sanibel or Captiva.

strawberry cockle found on Captiva Island Florida

This is exactly how I found this sweet SAND DOLLAR.

sand dollar cybershelling

I love calm days after a “storm” of busy days to slow stroll along the beach to see it lined with shellions of treasures like KITTENS PAWS, DARK CERITHS, CHESTNUT TURBANS, PAINTED EGG COCKLES and LADY-IN-WAITING CLAMS like these.

collecting seashells on Captiva Island florida

shelling adventures trips by pam

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So Many Rare Shells Found On Sanibel This Week

Posted by on Jan 19, 2014 in Blind Pass Sanibel, Cabrit's Murex, Cone, Florida Cone, Junonia, Lion's Paw, Long-Spined Urchin, Pitted Murex, Sanibel, Sunsets, Thorny Oyster | 23 comments

rare seashells on sanibel island florida

I have said countless times that the beaches of Southwest Florida change every day and by the hour so finding shells becomes a fascinating treasure hunt. So I would say Tam Tam from Michigan has had quite a treasure hunt this week! She found so many shells that aren’t found on our beaches all that often like that sweet baby LIONS PAW (top left), a CABRITS MUREX (middle), a LONG SPINED SEA URCHIN (okay, thats not a shell but its just so beautiful and big for that type of URCHIN) and a THORNY OYSTER (bottom). The ALPHABET CONE isn’t rare at all but it is just dang gorgeous…. and same for that BABY’S EAR. And of course you see she found a JUNONIA too!

tammy junonia found on sanibel florida

Tammy found her LIONS PAW along West Gulf Drive and found her JUNONIA and CABRITS at BLIND PASS SANIBEL. Her friend Barb from Virginia found a CABRITS MUREX at Blind Pass Sanibel too!

barb with caritas murex i love shelling tee

I think this is the tiniest, cutest CABRITS MUREX Ive ever seen. Wow!

juvenile cabrits murex barb

Oh but hold on there’s more…  Sue found a LIONS PAW as well!

sue lions paw florida cone sanibel

Her LIONS PAW is soooo pretty, right? The CONE is just as spectacshellar and both were found off West Gulf Drive. That is a very dark rich color variation of a FLORIDA CONE. Shellicious!

lions paw florida cone color variation

Lisa and Derek from Kansas were very happy to be finding such a variety of shells at Blind Pass Sanibel.

lisa derek kansas visit sanibel for shelling shells

They are very new to shelling but as you can see, they already have a great eye for such pretty shells. They found out about all the seashells on Sanibel from Derek’s dad Darrell who caught the shelling bug about 5 years ago on his first visit to Sanibel. Hey Darrell! Thanks for spreading the shelling love on to your kids- Derek and Lisa cracked me up!

lisa derek seashells from sanibel

Lisa could identify most of their other shells but she showed me this little mini shell and asked me what it was. Its a PITTED MUREX! I don’t find these all that often but I loved that even as new shellers, they both were so interested in this tiny shell that turned out to be not all that common in our area.

pitted murex lisa kansas found on sanibel

Every day is a new adventure on Sanibel, Captiva and all of the beaches in southwest Florida. What I find even more rare than these shells that my lucky shelling friends found, is that our islands are filled with so many friendly, smiling folks that enjoy every gift from the sea whether its rare or not. (oh…and the view aint half bad either ;) )

sunset captiva red sky palms

shelling adventures trips by pam

photo art gallery pam rambo i love shelling

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Smiling Through Days Of Summer Shelling

Posted by on Jul 31, 2013 in Alphabet Cone, Horse Conch, Lion's Paw, Shark's Eye | 20 comments

Lauren lions paw

Summer shelling in Southwest Florida is rocking this week! Lauren found a LION’S PAW at Little Hickory Beach in Bonita Springs. WOW! I met Lauren and her sister Jaime last year after they had a HORSE CONCH heyday that I showed you in my post Seashell Dreams Come True. Well, another dream has come true for her… she said ” After an 11 year search I finally found a Lion’s Paw yesterday!”.

Talk about a HORSE CONCH Heyday! Ann H found this aaaamazing HORSE CONCH at Bowman’s Beach. It is quite special to find one this big in that brilliant orange color. Wowee! I hope she sends a photo of it after she gets it cleaned up. If you need some advice on cleaning it up Ann, CLICK HERE.

 Ann horse conch

 Omigosh! Now I know why Holly is wearing that big beautiful smile… She found a big beautiful SHARK’S EYE at Blind Pass Sanibel! Happy Holly!

holly sharks eye

Her cutie sister Alyssa has that same shelling DNA… look at this perfect ALPHABET CONE she found! No wonder, they are both daughters of The Shellinator (always to be said with the Schwarzenegger voice LOL).

alyssa alphabet cone

 Not to be out-shelled by any of these girls, Devon found his own perfectly gorgeous ALPHABET CONE on the east end of Sanibel. I was told that all of these shells were collected either in the water or at the waters edge half buried in the sand. Congratshellations to Devon, Alyssa, Holly, Ann and Lauren for finding buried treasure!

devon alphabet cone

I had to show you this last photo too from Maureen in Indian Rocks Beach, Florida. Talk about a sheller’s dream! Today she found an ALPHABET CONE, SCOTCH BONNET and…. a FULGURATOR OLIVE! Yep, I said today- all this morning 3 hours north of Sanibel on Indian Rocks Beach. Geez.

fulgurator olive, scotch bonnet

 PS- I have now added 2014 tide charts if you like to plan your vacations around the tides for shelling and fishing. Check them out and print them out if you like…. CLICK HERE FOR TIDE CHARTS

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Precious Little Vulcan Lions Paw

Posted by on Jun 19, 2013 in Cormorant, Lion's Paw, Tinted Cantharus | 25 comments

tiny lions paw sanibel palm

It’s True! It really is the small things in life that are most precious. This is such a sweet little LIONS PAW! But I actually think this one might be called “The Trekkie Paw”… or “The Vulcan Paw”. He’s got a Vulcan Salute for all of you Spock Star Trek fans out there. LOL

interior lions paw lizbeth

My friend Lizbeth found this awesome gem while taking a long walk off West Gulf Drive. I know it looks similar to the KITTENS PAW, but this is clearly defined by that shoulder piece (Spock’s thumb). Good eye, Lizbeth!

lizbeth lions paw

Last evening by the Sanibel pier, I saw Ron from Atlanta snorkeling for quite a while…

snorkel sanibel lighthouse beach

When he finally came out of the water, he showed me this gorgeous live LIGHTNING WHELK he found then he placed back in the water. He also had that big yellow shell bag filled with FIGHTING CONCHS, COCKLES and a few emPty WHELKS.

ron atlanta snorkel sanibel

Lori and Katelyn from Alabama were going for the minis.

lori katelyn lighthouse beach sanibel

Most of these were found just at the water’s edge. I havent seen one of the TINTED CANTHARUS shells in a while so it was fun to see that. It’s the one in her hand that almost has a purplish tint to it. And I wish I had gotten a better shot of the huge WENTLETRAP they found. It’s hiding behind that cute pink-nosed LACE MUREX. The one just above the juvie LIGHTNING WHELK is a nice TOP SHELL.

miniature shells wentletrap cantharus

I always get the CORMORANT and the ANHINGA birds mixed up. They look so much alike! My friend Susan told me this one was the CORMORANT because he has the hook on the end of his beak. The ANHINGAS have the long straight beak. Okay, and I said “he” but I have no idea if this is a male or female but I’m sure there is a way to tell by the plumage. I’m much better at shell ID than bird ID…. but I’m going to try to remember… this one is the CORMORANT!

cormorant bird sanibel pier

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