Seashells in the West Indies

Seashells, they are beautiful, durable and found in waters around the world.  Everybody loves seashells.  Some beautiful ones can be found washed up along the islands that separate the Atlantic ocean from the Caribbean Sea.  You can find a lot of books about seashells, both of the world and of the Caribbean.  The main problem with them is that they have too many seashells, most people will only find a few different types.  So,what are some of the more common seashells found on Caribbean beaches?

One good book for Identification purposes is “Seashells of the Caribbean” by Leslie Sutton.  If you just look through the many excellent color photographs, you will start to get an idea of the diversity and of which shells you have found.  There are lots of West Indian Top shells around and beach with rocks near by.  You will also find this shell wandering inland as it is commonly used but hermit crabs for homes, and hermit crabs in the Caribbean live on land in many islands!

Then there is the large, beautiful, pink Queen Conch.  It is spiral, weighs about 3 pounds (1.5 kg) and has a pink flange.  The older shells can have the color bleached out by the sun.  These are often made into lamps and desk ornaments, but you need to be aware that, while the Queen Conch is common in the Caribbean, it is an endangered species in many countries and protected under Conference in International Trade in Endangered Species.  This mean you need permits to take it into the United States and many countries!

There are also numerous little spiral seashells which are types of periwinkles (not the flowers) and nerites.  They look like very small, dense snail shells and live ones can be found crawling along rocks in the intertidal zones.  They are usually gray of black and white, nice shapes and a convenient size for earrings, but not very colorful.

There are also lots of “bubble Shells”, Bulla striata.  They are small, delicate, and really pretty, and everywhere!  Along with them you will find small clam shells which are locally known as “cockles”.  These are easy to collect, not protected, and especially nice for young children.

Other shells that might be encountered, but not as common include small cone shells, sundial shells, cowries, and lots of little micro-shells, they are only a mm long in some cases!

Look and enjoy seashells found along the Caribbean shore, they are common!