Exotic shells in weird places

Wherever people go, they take stuff with them, and most often they leave some of it behind, either deliberately or accidentally. Some of these abandoned objects are ugly, and some are quite beautiful.

Sea shells have been considered to be beautiful by humans for millennia. The oldest jewelry ever found, over 10,000 years old, was made from seashells that were strung together into a necklace.

Therefore, not surprisingly, when biologists including myself are searching to see what they can find in the intertidal zone on Wards Island and Randall's Island in Manhattan, part of the estuary of the Hudson River, we do occasionally find shells from far-distant parts of the world.

So far we have found:

Two valves of an exotic Anadara species (4 more since then!) (and another two on August 19th for a total of 8!)
http://www.inaturalist.org/observations/6484705

Two faded and worn shells of a Turritella species (one more since then for a total of 3!)
http://www.inaturalist.org/observations/6484760

Two beads made from the gold ring cowry (another two since then!) (and another one on August 19th for a total of 5!)
http://www.inaturalist.org/observations/5643978

One tropical top snail species (another one since then!) (and another completely different species on August 19th.)
http://www.inaturalist.org/observations/6771040

And one Indo-Pacific small conch off the southern end of Wards Island.
Shown in the image below

Who knows what I might find next?

UPDATE:
From the same little beach on Ward's Island on July 27th:

Two more valves of that same Anadara species

One more shell of a tropical top snail

Amazingly: One shell of Indothais lacera

Posted by susanhewitt susanhewitt, June 25, 2017 16:23

Observations

Photos / Sounds

What

Little Bear Conch Canarium urceus

Observer

susanhewitt

Date

June 23, 2017 08:51 AM EDT

Description

Surprisingly, this was found during a low tide between rocks on the East River.

This is NOT local -- it is an Indo-Pacific species, clearly brought to the island by a human, and presumably thrown into the water.

The only thing local about this shell is the microscopic green algae which were starting to live on it.

This exotic species is very common in the international shell trade.

Maybe it was an offering to the sea goddess -- la Diosa del Mar?

Photos / Sounds

Observer

susanhewitt

Date

July 27, 2017 09:30 AM EDT

Description

I was surprised to find two more valves of this same Anadara species, one of them damaged.
I already found two valves (one of them damaged) on this same beach on two different days some time ago.

This is not an East Coast or Gulf of Mexico Coast Anadara species.
I do not know where this species comes from, but I don't think it is anywhere in the USA.

The exotic shells I am finding on this beach appear to be quite old. It looks to me as if it is someone's shell collection which got dumped here at some point, maybe 50 years ago or more. I would guess that this collection was thrown into a kitchen midden, which is now finally washing out onto the beach. This beach also has a great deal of glass and earthenware and china fragments, some of which appear to date from 1900 to 1950.

Photos / Sounds

What

Carinate Rock Shell Indothais lacera

Observer

susanhewitt

Date

July 27, 2017 09:30 AM EDT

Description

This is an exotic species from the Red Sea -- this doesn't occur naturally anywhere near here.

The exotic shells I am finding on this little beach on the Harlem River appear to be quite old. It seems to me like someone's shell collection that got dumped here at some point, maybe into a kitchen midden, and it is now all washing out again.

That's my theory anyway.

I would guess they were discarded at least 50 years ago.

Photos / Sounds

Observer

susanhewitt

Date

July 27, 2017 09:30 AM EDT

Description

This is exotic to this area. I don't know for sure which species this is, but it is not found anywhere near here naturally.

This shell has lost all of its outer shell layer so only the pearly nacre shows now.

The exotic shells I am finding on this beach appear to be quite old and may have been buried in the earth. It seems to me like someone's shell collection that got dumped here at some point, maybe into a kitchen midden, and is now washing out again.

That's my theory anyway.

Comments

It never ceases to amaze me where they turn up. I found a dead but decent Struthiolaria papulosa (New Zealand endemic) in Vava'u Harbour, Tonga. My friend Gene Everson found a huge, crabbed Strombus peruvianus (South American endemic) at 30m depth in a channel between two uninhabited islands in the far south of the Vava'u group in Tonga (turns out the King of Tonga had taken it from his collection months before and thrown it in the water down there to "bless" the waters). I found a dead Fusconaia ebena on the beach of Lake Corpus Christi, which is hundreds of miles from the nearest population. And I found a dead Obliquaria reflexa beside a water hole in the Nueces River near Crystal City, TX, several miles from the nearest road (and a couple hundred miles from its home range).

Posted by dbarclay about 4 years ago (Flag)

Yes, I think this Little Bear Conch might have been an offering to the Sea Goddess, la Diosa del Mar. A lot of Santeria rituals are carried out on Randall's Island because it is within easy walking distance of East Harlem/ Spanish Harlem.

Your exotic records are impressive. I have found a lot of ringers myself over the years, but some of them are food species, which is not so surprising. I found a valve of Mecenaria mercenaria in the Connecticut River at Hartford, a valve of Arctica islandica on the path around the Reservoir in Central Park, a valve of Cyclocardia borealis on the ground by a bus stop in Riverdale, in the Bronx, and a small Indo-Pacific Turbo on 1st Avenue at 78th Street in Manhattan.

I have also found those ubiquitous cowry beads made from Monetaria annulus (the gold ring cowry) in all kinds of places, including some rarely accessed beaches, as well as my local swimming pool here in Manhattan, but again, that is not surprising.

But it is interesting that shell collecting, including exotic shells, goes back so many years. A Roman's shell collection which was uncovered in the ruins of Pompeii included one species from the Red Sea.

Posted by susanhewitt about 4 years ago (Flag)

I found four more exotics on the same little beach -- see the update in the journal post.

Posted by susanhewitt about 4 years ago (Flag)

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