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Beach Combing Along Florida's Atlantic Coast-Common Finds
Florida's East Coast
Shells Common To Florida’s Atlantic Coast
Beach combing is one of my favorite pastimes. On a beautiful day, when the tide is low, I love to spend time just walking down the beach a seeing what I can find. Over the past few years, I've become familiar with the shell types that I can frequently find along this part of Florida. Based on my personal observations, I've formulated a list of those shells, and a brief description of each type.
These colorful bivalves, are one of the shell types that I find here. There are actually several varieties of scallop shells; the types that I find most often are the Atlantic Scallop and the Calico Scallop. They typically range in size from ¼-2 inches. Because they can be found in large quantities and in a variety of bright colors, I love to use them in crafting projects!
These are one of the most common, larger gastropod varieties that can be found on our beaches. They range in size from 2-16 inches in length. When I think of Lightning Whelks, I think of that shell that you hold up to your ear to hear the ocean!
These smooth round shells are very common along this coast, and I find them often. They range in size from ½ to about 1 ½ inches. Several varieties that can be found along this coast, including the Colorful Atlantic Natica, Brown Moon Shell, and Shark’s Eye. On a silly personal note, when I was a kid I thought these were actual shark eyes, due to the name, so I was afraid to pick them up off the beach :) These gastropod are actually extremely carnivorous, and will bore into other mollusks by producing an acidic mucus.
Gastropod Versus Bivalve
What's the difference between a gastropod shell and a bivalve shell?
All shellfish are classified as mollusk, a group of aquatic organisms that secrete a hard, calcium carbonate outer shell. However, they can be broken down into two main subgroups, gastropods and bivalves. Gastropod shells are those that spiral or whirl around a center apex. Those would include whelks, olive shells, and moon shells. Bivalve shells, on the other hand, are those shells with two sides, like scallops, arc shells, and jingle shells.
These thick, elongated gastropod shells are also very plentiful on our beaches and can reach up to 2 inches in length. They are some of my favorites to find because they tend to be very smooth and glossy. When the snail is alive, the foot of the animal will actually cover and protect the shell, keeping it smooth.
I find that these thick, small shells are particularly plentiful after a storm. They are not usually found larger than 1 inch, but can be fun for crafting if you find a lot of them.
These shells are very spiny, giving them a very unique appearance. They are less common then whelks, and the other gastropods that I’ve listed, but I do come across them on occasion, and they are such a fun find.
These are a more petite and delicate variety of whelk shell. I have never found one longer than 3 inches in length, though they can grow to 6 inches.
Many varieties of augers can be found here. They are heavily ribbed and usually white, grey, or yellowish-brown.
These delicate shells are so pretty. They are typically white, dark grey, or light orange, and have a lustrous sheen. Jingle shells are very thin and often translucent, reminding me of the scales on a mermaid tail. If you collect a pocketful of them they will Jingle as you walk, giving them their name.