Seashells From Around the World

Infographic Identification guide

Written by Carly Hallman

Have you ever taken a long walk on the beach and come across a beautiful shell in the sand? If you’re wondering what exactly you’re holding, we’ve organized a helpful seashell identification guide for you to recognize the common types of seashells you’ll find around the world. Whether you’re a collector, crafter, or just interested in learning more about the mollusks and crustaceans of the world, you can use our infographic seashell list to guide your discoveries.

Seashells from Around the World

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21 Seashells From Around the World

Shell and Genus Fun facts
Angel Wing
Pholadidae
Up to 7” (17.8 cm)
Burrows into rock and stays there for entirety of 8-year lifespan. Bioluminescent.
Arrow Dwarf Triton
Tritonoharpa
1.3” (33 mm)
Believed to be carnivorous due to its radula, a barbed tongue used for cutting flesh.
Turkey Wing Ark
Arca zebra
Up to 4″ (10 cm)
Sometimes hitchhikes on live rock into saltwater fish tanks.
Scotch Bonnet
Semicassis
2 – 4” (5 – 10 cm)
State symbol of North Carolina. Predator that drills into sand dollars and sea urchins with sulfuric acid.
Queen Conch
Lobatus
Up to13.9 in (35.2 cm)
The Mayans used conch shells as hand protectors during rituals and combat. Rarely, valuable pink pearls form in the mantle.
Junonia
Scaphella junonia
Up to 5″ (126 mm)
Rare to discover on beaches; people who find them while shelling often get their pictures in local newspapers.
Horse Conch
Triplofusus
Up to 24″ (60 cm)
Largest gastropod in American waters. State seashell of Florida.
Worm Snail
Vermetidae
Varies greatly
Irregular tubular shells fuse to rock or other shells. Colonies are often formed by partially cementing shells together.
Beaded Periwinkle
Littorina
Up to 2″ (55 mm)
When exposed to extreme heat or cold while climbing, it withdraws into shell and begins rolling in an attempt to reach water.
Wentletrap
Epitoniidae
0.6 and 11.7 cm
Exudes a pink or purplish dye from salivary gland that has an anesthetic on prey.
Banded Tulip
Cinctura
2 – 4″ (5 -10 cm)
Consumes other small gastropods. Lives in muddy sand from 2 to 150′ deep.
Shark’s Eye Moon
Neverita
Up to 3.5″ (90 mm)
Drills a countersink circular hole into shell of prey and feeds on the soft tissue within.
Golden Cowrie
Lyncina
Up to 4″ (10 cm)
Once worn as necklaces by chieftains as a symbol of rank on the Fiji Islands.
Map Cowrie
Leporicypraea
Up to 4″ (10 cm)
Economically important in the Indo-West Pacific, where it is used for trading and food.
Tiger Cowrie
Cypraea
Up to 6″ (15 cm)
Once abundant, dynamite fishing is destroying its habitats. Believed to facilitate childbirth in Japanese culture.
Calico Scallop
Argopecten
1.6″ – 2.4″ (40 – 60 mm)
Scallops are one of the only mollusk species that can swim actively by propelling on jets of water.
Abalone
Haliotis
1 to 12″ (2 – 30 cm)
Exceptionally strong shell; scientists currently study the structure to create stronger ceramic products such as body armor.
South African Turban
Turbo
1 – 5″ (2.5 – 13 cm)
The first Turbo species were discovered in the Upper Cretaceous, around 100 million years ago. Often used as shells for pet hermit crabs.
Alphabet Cone
Conus
Up to 3″ (80 mm)
Cone shells have a modified tooth that they use as a venomous harpoon to paralyze their prey.
Lightning Whelk
Sinistrofulgur
Up to 15″ (38 cm)
State shell of Texas. Native Americans believed the left-oriented spiral made it a sacred object.
Carrier Shell
Xenophoridae
Varies greatly
Cements other shells, stones, sponges, and debris together as it grows.

Sources:

eol.org
marinespecies.org
wikipedia.org
iloveshelling.com
seashells.org

She’s been selling seashells by the seashore for quite a long time.

The fascination human beings have had with shells goes back many centuries. Anthropologists would argue that the first currency began with small and shiny cowrie shells. That means the first loans in the world were likely done with seashells originating in Asia. In other words, back then, she wasn’t selling seashells, but she was buying other items with them! Another important shell in history is the conch, which has been used as a blowing horn by influential people in numerous cultures, including Hindu priests, ancient Aztec rulers, and Hawaiian ceremonial leaders. Some Native American tribes used shells for wampum belts and hair pipes and in Africa, cowrie shell necklaces are highly prized. Others cultures across the world used giant clam shells as bowls, or in baptismal fonts. Even today, a group in London called the Pearly Kings and Queens prefer mother-of-pearl or nacre buttons to plastic ones.

Human beings have been learning from seashells for a long time too.

The long-time fascination with seashells has led to many other human discoveries both artistic and scientific. For instance, it’s hard for a mathematician to look at a Shark’s Eye Moon and not see the Fibonacci sequence, also called “the golden ratio,” which is powerfully important for many types of equations. Even today, artists attempt to recreate the natural patterns of shells. Beyond the symbolic use of the shell, such as the famous art pieces The Birth of Venus, studying different kinds of seashells has led to us truly understanding our world. These calcium carbonate forms can inspire stronger man-made materials for multiple purposes.

But the creatures inside are sometimes even more fascinating.

Usually (and sometimes hopefully), the creatures inside of a shell are long gone by the time a child picks it up along the beach. But the thing that wandered off is still important to local ecosystems. Estimates range from 70,000 to 120,000 known species of shell dwellers. Usually, these creatures can be broken down into two groups: bivalves, which have two shells connected by a hinge, and gastropods, which have one shell and no hinge. Because we humans love cowries so much, we tend to have a deeper understanding of those types of seashells and their names. But much deeper along the ocean floor could exist a vast range of mollusks and other creatures with shells that never reach the shores.

So of the millions of different shell combinations, we’ve organized the names of different types of seashells one is most likely to find. If you’re wondering what’s in your hand, use our seashell identification chart to see if it’s a money-inspiring cowrie, a sacred musical conch, a sequence-filled spiral in a Shark’s eye, or a once-delicious scallop. But the world is full of many other seashell types. List and collect your own findings too!


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