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!
Pam, I just love your blog and cannot wait to shell with you one day. You have answered yet another of my “seashell” questions I have wondered about while combing the Sanibel and Ft. Myers beaches. I was thinking the holes were like you said, wear and tear. Now I know! And I love the gift tag idea. Duh! Why didn’t I think of that?! haha Thanks!!
Nice post. The small, tooth-like structure in the predator mollusk is called a radula. Entire books have been written on these small structures.
The radula is what actually makes/cuts the small holes.
In the majority of snails, the radula is a tough, ribbon-like structure, set up rather like an old-fashioned typewriter ribbon, and covered in row after row of microscopic tiny teeth. As one set wears out, the ribbon advances and a new set comes into play.
In cone snails, the radula is extremely modified. Only one minute tooth is used at a time, and that tooth is shaped like a harpoon, a harpoon which also delivers a neurotoxin to paralyze the prey of the cone snail (which in most species is marine worms).
Pretty amazing stuff!
Here’s another Lisa that loves looking at those holes, too! Thanks for the info. I have a better appreciation for what I see now.
Somebody told me one time that some of the holes in shells were from birds pecking through them to try to get the critters out! Very interesting information, Pam…thanks. Hope to run into you on the beach in June.
What a delightful, informative post. You always seem to bring me back to my dearest memories…I can feel the sand between my toes and the warm breeze on this cold Ohio day. Thank you!
How cool is that?!?! I usually skip over or toss shells like that, as if they were somehow imperfect (is that possible?) I swear, from now on though, I will never look at them the same. I promise I will give them their due respect and at least keep an open mind for any secret messages to be revealed! Love it and love your blog, too! Thank you so much for all the enjoyment you bring and for opening our eyes to the wonders of the sea! Can’t wait to visit Sanibel again………ahhh.
Wow Pam, Fantastic post. I had always wondered about the worm marks in the venus clams. BTW I think one is something else? This is a great great post and I must now look up bristle worms because the one in your video looks like a MONSTER! surely the marks on the venus clams come from cute little ones….?
Thanks for the info! I thought it had to be some sort of worm. Now I know that the Bristle Worm is the artist! :) Last year year I started picking up shells with interesting ‘grooves’ and holes. I have so many that have ‘faces’ on them; smiley, sad, etc. and letters like Lisa found. I hope to one day be able to have an alphabet! The designs are another gift from the sea for me! And I always pick up the shells with those ‘perfect’ holes drilled in them. They are great for stringing. Thank you, Pam!
Very cool post.!
Wow! I always learn such interesting facts when I read your blogs.
thanks for the information.
Nice post Pam! Interesting topic. So-called damaged shells have much more of a story to tell than the whole ones do! :)
I learned some more about the Stimpson’s Chimney Clam here:
Thank you for the wonderful post. I enjoyed reading it. My husband and I arrive in sanibel in 3 days and we are super excited! It is my all time favorite place to be!
FYI- Shelling Alert! a nice shell pile formed today at Blind Pass Captiva to bring in some nice shells…. but I don’t know how long its gonna last. If they were coming in there, they may have started coming in somewhere else as well. I thought id let you know since I’ve heard folks saying they haven’t found many whelks and conch shells this week. I don’t have time to post pics yet but if you are looking for an update on shelling conditions- so far.
Enjoy the weekend wherever you might be. :)
I found a shell with a V on it while on Sanibel. I didn’t realize how these little messages and holes were made until reading this! Thank you for sharing so much of your shell-smarts with us. :)
Hi there friend:-)
We made it to Blind Pass because of your post. Wow! Huge pile with a lot of happy Shellers. My husband was a foot away from a gentleman who found a gorgeous Junonia. We met another woman who found a Junonia on the Sanibel side…they were out there. We are leaving tomorrow and are bringing home another beautiful collection of conchs, whelks,sand dollars, turbans & augers galore along with terrific memories. It was great meeting you today. We will continue to live here in Sanibel through you.
Lisa B, so very nice to meet you today too!!! We had just talked about Blind Pass and I thought of you when I got there so glad u made it to see the difference.
Would a possible alternative to the Sharks Eye’s cannibalism be a way of getting rid of the competition from the she-Shark Eyes? :)
Good job, Pam! Wish Shellabalo had been this week! Sunnye & I will see you in January!
Fascinating information. Since I just drilled a hundred shells for children to make wall hangers, I will surely pick up shells with holes in the future. Easiest shells to drill are scallops since most others shatter. Fighting Conchs are also ok to drill. Yep, I learned my lesson – look for shells that already have shells.
what tool did you use to drill the holes?? did you break any shells?? Thanks…
Thanks for the informative post (as always!) Pam! I’ve always been fascinated by the different types of holes too……. as a young girl who loved shelling on vacation, I’d occupy most of my time by looking for worm-carved letters on shells, who also had some sort of hole through them – they were the best, because then I would string them through a beach-found piece of fishing line (which I always picked up since it can injure so many creatures and was also useful!) and make a necklace with my friends’ names on them! I’m not sure if I ever completed the task (I probably still have shells spelling 75% of some childhood friends’ names stored somewhere!) but it was sure fun :)
Some of the toughest letters are probably As, Bs, Es, Gs, Ks, Ms,Os, Ps, Qs, Ws, and Zs. Others you stand an okay chance finding either in capital or lower case form :)
Also, when I was obsessed with a band as a teen, I wrote them a fan letter (never sent) and wrote on a pretty white shell (don’t know what kind) something relating to a song they wrote. Hilarious! :)
Oh, and I can’t be the only sheller to absolutely LOVE having a mission, right?! I go into almost any shelling experience with something in mind that I’m hoping to find – not excluding anything of course, but I love having something to hunt for!
I found this shell on Sanibel this morning at Pointe Santo… It is an ark that has a star that looks like it is stamped right on it. Do you know what could have done this? I am including a picture I took.
I am just getting started with collecting. The only thing I know is that I have found these beautiful beach treasures. You answered questions that I wondered about. Thank you
My family and I just came back from Blind Pass Captiva where we found these unique shells between here and Naples that spell my son’s name: Dylan! I was looking up what makes these lines and “letters” on the shells. Thanks for the info! Now I know ☺️
I found a very similar Ponderous Ark with a heart inside. Very amazing