“Everyday while walking the beach, you discover something new and interesting!”
The ocean covers 71 percent of the earth’s surface and contains about 97 percent of the planet’s water, yet more than 95 percent of the underwater world remains unexplored.
The ocean and lakes play an integral role in many of the earth’s systems including climate and weather.
The ocean supports the life of nearly 50 percent of all species on earth and helps sustain that life providing 20 percent of the animal protein and 5 percent of the total protein in the human diet.
It is no surprise that this unexplored universe is the home of some of nature’s most beautiful aquatic animals and molluscs…Seashells
Seashells are classified as Molluscs. These are invertebrates and are also referred to as “Soft- Shelled Animals.” that includes animals such as squid, octopuses, cuttlefish, snails, slugs, limpets, mussels, clams, oysters, scallops, as well as many lesser known creatures.
There are an estimated 80,000 species of Molluscs making them the second largest division in the animal kingdom.
The most fabulous diversity of shells is in the Indo Pacific Region. The Mecca for seashell collectors is this area of the Philippines Islands.
For North America, the Mecca is Senibel Islands on the Florida coast, famed for it’s shelling. The Caribbean Islands are also popular spots for collecting some of the most beautiful seashells.
Most Molluscs are marine and there are eight groups of Molluscs alive today living in almost every environment, they can be found almost everywhere in the depths of the world’s ocean, among the coral reefs, and in almost every type of freshwater habitats such as rivers, streams, canals, springs, lakes and ponds, even in deserts.
While walking on the beach, everyone likes to pick these seashells and either observe them or collect them.
They are also known for their individuality and no two seashells are the same or have the same designs.
Many species are common, many are Rare & Valuable and many are very beautiful. These shells have been collected by human beings for thousands of years.
Molluscs, because of their ease of capture, edibility and beauty have had a long history of importance to mankind.
The most common molluscs are those associated with Man’s dinner plate. The succulent oyster, clams, scallops, mussels, abalones, cockles, muscles, octopus, oysters, periwinkles, snails, squids, whelks, and many more are all molluscs that make a contribution to the human diet. They have provided meals for humans for thousands of years.
These Molluscs are subdivided as Univalves (Single Shell) or Bivalves (Double-Shell).
Univalves are class of Molluscs typically having a one-piece shell. Some Univalves include snails, murex, whelks, periwinkles, olives, cones and cowries.
Bivalves are a class of molluscs which have a shell that consists of two halves hinged at the back. Some Bivalves include mussels, clams, cockles and scallops.
Their size may vary from fractions of an inch to the largest of all invertebrates, the giant squid which can weigh 250 kg and measures up to 10 metres. They are usually identified by a Common Name and a Scientific Name..for example:
Common name: Fighting Conch Scientific name: Strombus Pugilis
How they are formed
As mentioned, the empty seashells you find on the beach or in the ocean once were home to these soft-bodied Molluscs. They build their shells by secreting a substance, calcium carbonate from the mantle that eventually hardens around them and as the animal grows, their shells grow with them, usually in concentric rings.
Special glands secrete color pigments to the layers just before new layers of shell harden to form this protective hard exterior. With a shell produced by the mantle, a radula to help probe and prepare its food and with a strong foot for locomotion, the shell bearing molluscs have made their way into every continent.
Can we think of any other species that can do this?. Humans… so we have much in common.
The fascination with Molluscs
Mankind has always been fascinated by the Intricate structures that the mantle of a shell can produce; only a highly sophisticated and biologically successful animal can create such a magnificent object. The beautiful sculpture of certain shells are reminiscent of some architectural designs that could have been inspired by these same forms.
The study of seashells is called “Conchology” and a person who studies this science in great detail is called a “Conchologist”.
I cannot say that I am a Conchologist because the level and depth of my involvement into the scientific aspect is not enough for this to be justified. I am just a collector and it’s just a hobby.
The Ocean was once my ‘Home away from Home’…Help protect our Oceans!