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Beach Fun and a Huge Beach Mystery Solved

All images are photographs, not scans, and I can't maintain the white background, even with Photoshop adjustments.   

There are large clam shells everywhere on the beach and I bring home several from every morning beach walk.  Several evenings ago, my guests and I set up an art camp on my grandchildren's craft table and raided their paints, markers, and glitter glue.  Here is my first painted shell.

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By bedtime I decorated 4 more.

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My friend Sara and I bring home a variety of "other things" from the beach to sketch/paint in our travel sketchooks.  Here is a pine cone from one of the sandy beach entrances and a sea gull feather.

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As I climbed out of the truck in the driveway yesterday, I looked into the grass right beneath my feet, and the only thing I saw was this four leaf clover.  I have NEVER found one before, and there it was!  I saved it on a sketchbook page by stitching a cellophane square over it and through the watercolor paper - then sealing the 4 edges with glue stick. 

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Huge Beach Mystery: Early this week we arrived for our early morning 2 mile walk and saw many unusual "objects" on the beach. They were very smooth 6-8 inch beige partial circles, each with an identical lip and curved shape which resembled a piece of a toilet plunger.  None of them were a complete circle.  Were they pieces of rubber, manufactured as gaskets?  If so, why were there so many at the high tide line - extending over several miles.

Here are a few photos.  Wet they were very flexible and felt like leather or rubber.  Dry, they were very fragile and crumbled easily.  In the first photo you can see the size relative to an adult hand.

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We picked up a few each day during our walk and asked random people if they could identify these strange things.  Surprisingly, most people hadn't seen them although they were everywhere.  Others, including those who lived here their entire life, had no idea what they were.  In each instance, the first question was "do you think they are organic or machine made?"  Each day we did some random computer searches and found nothing.  Our best guess was some part of ocean seaweed, but what? 

Yesterday I was looking at kelp images and saw a link to a website called MarineDetective.  What could I lose by emailing this Vancouver BC diver and marine expert.  So I did.  Within 30 minutes I received this reply.

"Laughing here! I get asked this so often. These are the egg cases (aka egg collars) of Lewis' moon snails ( Polinices lewisi)!  Moon snails are big predatory marine snails. They look so human made that I have had to correct people when they pick them up thinking they are garbage! By a remarkable method, the female moonsnail forms one layer of the collar by gluing together sand grains with mucus; the the fertilized eggs are laid on this layer and THEN she seals them in with another layer of sand and mucus!!!  The eggs are held within the collar for 1.5 months and, in the ones you found, may already have hatched out to be 1000s of planktonic larvae. I include a more detailed description below. 

May I use your image to add to the "marine ID requests" part of my FaceBook page?  It will allow me to direct others there!  

Best wishes!
Jackie
 
Jackie Hildering
Biologist / Marine Educator
Follow "The Marine Detective" at www.themarinedetective.ca 
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/the.marine.detective
 
We have two different species of moon snails here in the North Atlantic.  But this description of the egg laying process appears to be universal.  These fascinating structures are called sand collars.  Here is more detailed information from "The Marine Detective."
 
"When a female is ready to lay her eggs, and she lays several thousand at a time, she rises above the sand and encases her entire shell with the foot.  Cilia on the foot pick up individual grains of sand and spread them over her body until she is covered with a grain-thick layer. These sand grains are then cemented together with mucous. So she is now encased in a single layer of cemented sand grains.

Next the eggs are produced and, again using the cilia, are evenly distributed between her flesh and the sand layer.  Once she's done laying the eggs she creates another layer of sand, again cemented together with mucous, between her foot and the eggs. The end result is a paper-thin sand sculpture molded into the shape of her foot-covered shell and made up of two layers of sand with a thin layer of eggs in between them, completely surrounding the mother's body. Now she needs to escape. Using the foot action described above, she digs straight down beneath the sand and ducks underneath her creation, leaving this "sand collar" behind." 

Comments

I live on the beach and have never seen these. Fascinating!! Loved the sketches of the pine cone and feather too!!

Well, that's mighty fascinating. They must be some large snails. I have lived not far from the beach my whole life and never heard of this. I like the mandala-like decorations of the shells and your treasures drawing. I think it's mighty cool that you find time to memorialize your trip. Enjoy!

Very cool about the sand collars. Love the sketches too. Loose and expressive.

You always find the most interesting things out there! I love the search and the solution. Those shells are delightful.

Thanks for giving us art AND a lesson in nature. The story about the sand collars is so interesting--I'll share it with some friends. Your sketches are enjoyable. Obviously, you're enjoying the summer weather!
Kristi

I am in love with the softness and lightness of the feather :)

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