SHELL OF THE WEEK
There are hundreds of species of murex, but the one most commonly found in this area is the one pictured. The shells vary from small to large and are thick and spiraled with spikes.
In ancient days, the shells of some murex were pulverized and mixed with water to create “royal” purple dye.
They feed by drilling other shells, creating the round holes you may find in dead shells on the beach. They also feed on shrimp, sponge and algae.
Remember, there is a bag limit of two shells per day.
Shelling tip: To clean some shells, just place them on an anthill. After a week, the ants will have finished their work and your shell is ready to wash in bleach water.
FLORIDA FLIGHTING CONCH
Despite the name, the Florida fighting conch is commonly found upon our beach. The color ranges from a dark, reddish brown to a lighter brown with cream inside.
The shells are thick and commonly found intact.
The scallop is a bivalve, meaning that it has two sides and can open and close.
Scallops can easily jet through the water by quickly opening and closing its shell.
There are many color combinations for their shells, but beachcombers most often find the side of the shell that is rounded and ribbed.
Some collectors deal exclusively in scallops. The edge of the shell holds what is known as a scallop shape and can be easily remembered by recalling the Shell Oil Co. logo.
Shelling tip: Check out washes of shells, which are areas of shells piled together. Take the time to check through it for smaller shells.
| (Courtesy photo) |
Known as the official shell of Texas, the lightening whelk is actually a marine snail. About six species of the whelk, out of thousands worldwide, live in Eastern American waters.
The shell is unusual because very few other shells open naturally on the left side. The photograph shows a rare left and right example.
The lightening whelk lives in waters with mud or sand and feeds mostly on clams.
State officials chose the shell to represent the state in 1987, and the U.S. Post Office featured the shell among four others on a postage stamp.
Shelling Tip: Check the tide charts for low tide. Most people prefer to go shelling at low tide. Many of our lowest tides occur in the winter months, making this a favorite pastime for our Winter Texan visitors.
Sand dollars are a favorite find for most shellers on South Padre Island. However, they are hard to find intact because of their fragility.
When they are alive, they have a velvet-like covering of short, moveable spines. These spines help the creatures move and bury themselves in the sand.
The brown-, green-, purple- or rose-colored animal may be found in great numbers along the third trough just off barrier islands such as South Padre Island.
When dead, the chalky, brittle disks have five perforations and distinctive star-shaped markings on their bodies.
SHELLING TIP: Look for areas of light or white sand to find sand dollars. They are often found in and around these deposits.