If you're an avid beachcomber of Sanibel Island, you probably already know (and have found) these 5 shells. However, we have added some fun facts about the creatures that inhabit these shells that might just make them more fascinating!

1.     Lightning Whelk. This predatory snail is unique among the gastropods because its shell spirals to the left, while about 90% of gastropods spiral to the right. They also lay those long, snake-like egg cases that we see washed up in the wrack line, that may contain up to 3,000 embryos each!

Lightning whelk egg case washed ashore. 

Lightning whelk egg case washed ashore. 

2.     Alphabet Cone. Cone snails are notorious for their specialized hunting style – they use a modified tooth as a venomous harpoon to sting and paralyze their prey. If you find a live one, be sure to handle with care as you return it to the sea. Check out the video below to watch a relative of the alphabet cone hunt for prey - if you're short on time, fast forward to the 1:40 mark). 


3.     West Indian Worm Shell. Despite their worm-like appearance, these curvy creatures are actually gastropod snails that attach themselves to sponges or rocks. The irregular spiraling of the shell can reach up to 3 inches long.

4.     Lettered Olive. These shiny shells can often be seen at low tide slowly cruising along the sandbar. Even though they look peaceful, olives move across the sand in search of tiny bivalves that they grab with their muscular foot, then drag below the sand to consume.

5.     Coquina. Also known as butterfly clams, these colorful mini-mollusks love to catch a wave and surf to their feeding grounds. You can find these guys burrowing just below the surf near the water line – see how many colors you can find!

From left to right: Lightning Whelk, Alphabet Cone, West Indian Worm Shell, Lettered Olive, and Coquina

From left to right: Lightning Whelk, Alphabet Cone, West Indian Worm Shell, Lettered Olive, and Coquina


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