Imagine Buying A House With Sea Shells

Dated: 06/22/2016

Views: 450

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I have always considered seashells as gifts from the sea but, where exactly do they come from?

Culturally, people have collected shells for millennia for a wide variety of uses; European explorers traveling to West Africa were surprised to find the cowrie shells being exchanged as money instead of the silver or gold to which they were accustomed. Additionally, native people all over the world have used seashells for basins, tubs, buckets, lamps, and cutting tools. But to the average beach-goer today, shells represent a major point of interest for trips to the coast. People spend hours combing the beach for shells of interest to them. 

Seashells are an important part of biological and geological beach processes as well as an important part of human culture. The organisms that produce the shells provide huge quantities of food for animals including people forming the basis of a multi-billion dollar portion of the global commercial fishing industry. Seashells are a major source of organic deposits to the seafloor and make up the majority of limestone and chalks. Some people are novices and some are experts, but the fascination is the same; seashells are fascinating and beautiful reminders of the complexity of life.

Exactly what is a seashell?

A seashell is a little hard to define. Most seashells are hard protective outer coverings of marine animals. Most seashells come from mollusks, but some do not. Most seashells on the beach are not attached to living organisms, but some are. Most seashells come from mollusks, a large group of marine animals including clams, mussels, and oysters, which exude shells as a protective covering. Shells are excreted from the outer surface of the animal called the mantle and are made up of mostly calcium carbonate. As the animal ages, the shell gets larger and more calcium carbonate is exuded from the mantle. Color patterns are specific to different species making is relatively easy to tell different species apart. While some shells are similar, most differences are recognizable to the naked eye. After the animal dies, the durable shell remains. Ocean currents carry shells underwater where they often come to rest on the beach. Because beaches change a little bit each time the tide changes, patches of shells may move around daily or appear during certain parts of the day based on tides.


Mollusks are responsible for most of the shells you see on a trip to the beach, but pinpointing exactly which species is sometimes difficult due to the sheer size of the mollusk phylum. The variety and number of mollusk species is huge; over 110,000 estimated species makes it one of the largest phyla of animals behind only insects (Arthropods) and worms (Nematodes). There are six major classes of Mollusks that have shells:

Gastropoda – snails, slugs, and limpets

Bivalvia – clams, oysters, and mussles

Polyplacophora – chitons

Cephalopoda – squid, octopus, and nautilus

Scaphopoda – tusk shaped shells



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Beth Tindall

A Long Term Local to help you "Make the Move!" Beth has plenty of history with the Grand Strand Area, Her father was born in Georgetown County and he grew up in the Browns Ferry area. He joine....

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