Archive for Lion’s Paw

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

Mar
28

Bringing On The Beachcombing

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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

Mar
12

Smell The Salt In The Sanibel Captiva Air

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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 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!

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