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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
But when they don’t crack and become lustrous…. Gorgeous!
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…
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!
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!
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.
There is nothing more exciting than seeing shells line the beach as far as the horizon.
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.
She found oodles of APPLE MUREXES and FIGHTING CONCHS in a wide assortment of colors, patterns and textures along with some other beauties.
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.
I saw Ellie from Wisconsin holding her hand in a way to protect something delicate.
It was a gorgeous double ALTERNATE TELLIN with colors of yellow, pink and mauve. It looks like a beautiful butterfly!
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!)
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.
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!
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).
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.
Krystal S posted on iLS Facebook all the shells they found yesterday morning at Blind Pass Sanibel….
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!
Keep ’em coming, Mother Nature!
Sunny blue skies, aqua water and warm breezes have filled our beach days in Southwest Florida this week- it’s been absolutely gorgeous!
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!
Check out my post from our Road Trip To The Florida Keys to see our AMERICAN STAR-SHELLS we found there to compare this…
Then compare it to the MACULATED TOP SHELL at http://www.gastropods.com/4/Shell_244.shtml . 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!
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!
Martha (far right in the Shellucky Luckett Ladies photo) found this amazing LIONS PAW! Shellzam! See? Thats why they are called “Shellucky”!
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.
On my journey, I saw this…
Such a gift. Thank you Mother Nature for this beautiful ZIG ZAG FLAT SCALLOP!
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.
This is exactly how I found this sweet SAND DOLLAR.
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.
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 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!
I think this is the tiniest, cutest CABRITS MUREX Ive ever seen. Wow!
Oh but hold on there’s more… Sue found a LIONS PAW as well!
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!
Lisa and Derek from Kansas were very happy to be finding such a variety of shells at Blind Pass Sanibel.
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 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.
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 ;) )
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.
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!
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).
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!
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.
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
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
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!
Last evening by the Sanibel pier, I saw Ron from Atlanta snorkeling for quite a while…
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.
Lori and Katelyn from Alabama were going for the minis.
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.
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!