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Coquina Seashells are Naturally Colorful

Updated on January 26, 2017
A lone half of a Coquina Shell showing off its brilliant color, stripes and bands.
A lone half of a Coquina Shell showing off its brilliant color, stripes and bands. | Source

What are Coquina Shells?

They are the skeleton of the coquina clams. These clams, like all mollusks with shells, wear their skeletons on the outside of their soft bodies instead of on the inside like us mammals do. The shells provide the clams with a home, protection against the elements and protection from their environment. They also provide some protection from predation.

The seashells of these clams are very hard and somewhat thick considering the size of the animal residing inside. The coquina clam is a bi-valve species of mollusk. It has 2 separate seashells which it can open in order to move around, to secure nourishment and release excrement.

Coquina seashells are small. The most common size is around one half (1/2) inch long. They can grow to be up to one (1) inch long. They are wedge shaped with the thickest part of the seashell being at the hinge. The seashell at the thickest part is about half the size of the total length so a 1 inch long shell would be about ½ inch wide.

Coquina Shells - Variety Rules

Collection of Coquina shells showing color, stripe and band variety.
Collection of Coquina shells showing color, stripe and band variety. | Source

Colors and Patterns

The shells come in a variety of colors from white to a dark gray (almost black) and every color in-between. The most common colors I have seen are white, yellow, pink, brown, purple, blue, and gray. The attached photo shows some of the varieties of colors in my current collection of coquina seashells.

The seashells are not only colorful but they also come in patterns. The patterns either radiate from the hinge area (stripes) or follow the length of the seashell (bands). The stripes and the bands can be lighter or darker than the rest of the seashell. This makes for some very interesting seashells.

The stripes can be thin or wide or there could be a combination of thin and bold stripes on the seashell. Sometimes the stripes are so wide they color a whole quarter of the length of the shell. At other times they are so thin they look like small bits of thread radiating out from the hinge to the edge of the seashell.

The bands can also be thin or wide. They generally follow the edge of the clam’s shell. They may be growth rings, like in trees, that show the conditions of the environment as the coquina clams grow.

Where Are Coquina Shells Found?

Coquina shells can be found on the beaches of Florida. Most of the ones I have found come from the Western beaches out near Fort Myers and Sanibel. These would be the seashells from the southern Atlantic coquina which live from Virginia down to the Gulf of Mexico and into the Caribbean.

Where they thrive, the beaches will be full of the vacated homes of the coquina clam. Healthy beaches will have large populations of the clams since they like to pack themselves in. Unlike us humans who like to have a bit a space around us, the clams prefer to be in very close proximity of fellow clams. These colonies can number in the thousands perhaps 10s of thousands.

If you find lots of empty coquina shells on the beach you can be sure that in the waters nearby buried in the sand are thousands of live coquinas. They bury themselves just under the sand. When they want to move they climb out of the sand and let the waves help them move up and down the beach.

Why Collect Them?

Besides being very pretty, which in itself would be reason to have a few hanging around the house, they are also useful in the making of crafts with seashells. They can be positioned to make many different designs and some of my future seashell craft articles will feature the little colorful wonders.

They can also be used to fill up small jars and placed on exhibition that way. To help the colors stand out and to protect the seashells from fading away, you may consider applying a clear coat of polyurethane paint.

Another possibility is to form the seashells into beans. Find seashells that are in the form of a matching pair of shells, apply glue to the edges and then close the shell halves to form a whole.

You can also sort single halves by size and match up seashell halves to form your own whole beans. With this method you can try to match colors and patterns or opt out for a different color on each half.

Place the whole beans in clear glass jars or open bowls and put them on display. Try placing them with other beach themed items. You can place small bowls full of these coquina shells near large specimen seashells to keep them company.

Have you or do you collect Coquina Shells?

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Coquina Clams

Please DO NOT collect live coquina clams unless you plan to eat them (You may also want to find out if it’s legal to harvest wild clams on the beach you are at). Where the coquinas are found you will have plenty of empty seashells lying on or near the beach to pick from. Why kill an animal just to take its home?

Besides they provide food for many of the birds and other animals that live on or near the beach and in the inter-tidal zone. Let them eat and then you will have plenty more seashells to collect.


Being small seashells they can become a choking hazard for anyone who may place them in the mouth and swallow. This is especially a hazard for small children since they may see the pretty colors and think they are hard candy.

Florida - Beachcombing for Seashells

Florida, USA

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Beaches of Florida, especially on the West (Gulf) coast are great for beachcombing for seashells.

What Do You Think? Leave Your Comment Here.

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    • Angelo52 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Central Florida

      Beachcombing can be a lot of fun and sometimes even on a well used beach you can find some exciting surprises. Thanks for the vote and your comment.

    • unknown spy profile image

      Not Found 

      6 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

      I used to collect some of these shells..maybe not coquina shells but it's a lot like that. sometimes I used these shells to create mosaic for my cousins for their project.. i love shells. every time we go to the beach, i have to brig a handful of these shells.

      Voted +!


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