Beach Walk With Corinne

I treasure my beach walks with DIL Corinne. She is as curious as I am about all things in nature, and I never end a beach walk with her without having learned way more about all things we see on the beach. She is especially knowledgeable about all the shells.

Yesterday’s walk produced a shell I’ve never seen (a Stiff Pen clam shell) and the info that a beautiful shell we ran across, the Lettered Olive Shell, is the SC state shell.

First, we saw a jelly fish stranded in the tide, which was just starting to come in, so maybe it will survive. Corinne said it will sting if you encounter it in the water, but that this one’s sting isn’t too bad. Corinne said it is a Cannonball jellyfish and is very common in these waters.

We didn’t find any whole sand dollars–that requires deeper wading on to the sand bars at a falling tide most of the time. But we found lots of parts, and I picked up some until I can find whole ones. These will dry and bleach to white over time.

The four shells at the bottom were worth bringing home: on the left a Lettered Olive snail shell, which is the SC state shell. The shell’s markings make people think of written letters or hieroglyphics. At the top an intact beautiful clam shell from a clam that can grow quite big. To the right, a still-connected and smooth, shiny white clam shell. And at the bottom, a baby conch shell.

But, the shell I’ve never seen is this big one, which Corinne told me is a Stiff Pen clam shell. And there were a lot of them on the beach yesterday. She wouldn’t let me bring it home as she said it would stink to high heavens, even though the birds had already eaten whatever meat was left when it washed up.

It is called a “stiff pen” as the family of this kind of clam is pointed only on one end, which it sticks in the sand on the ocean bottom to bring itself upright to feed.

Here are some links to the Lettered Olive shell and the Stiff Pen shell if you are interested. There are better pictures, and I hope the links work as for some reason WordPress is not letting me copy and paste a link this morning. I have to research how to make that happen.

The Lettered Olive: State shell of South Carolina

The Stiff Pen clam: