Posts Tagged 'shells'

Wash Your Rocks

RocksOne of the earliest disillusionments is the transformation of the beautiful seashell or river rock into something rather dull once it has dried out. Whence the magic of the beach-combing discovery, the footloose, and probably bare-footed, sojourn along the edges of the ocean/pond/lake/stream/river, where the gleaming thing captured our eye? I understand that shell collectors oil their shells for best effect and photographs. I just used water here.

Dry.

Dry.

Wet.

Wet.

As I understand it (but I’m no Governor of Florida or New Jersey), the problem is one of light, or rather our perception of light. When light hits a water- or oil- covered surface, it bounces back with some uniformity. Things look shiny and new, gleaming and jewel-like. When light hits a dried-out surface, all the gnarliness of that surface means the light will be scattered helter-skelter, looking dull and so over its celebrity.

Red Hook Saunter

Red Hook is the name of the eastern-most town in St. Thomas, USVI, but I’m back home in Brooklyn now, where Red Hook is a neighborhood.Long a working-class dock-side neighborhood, it’s relatively tree-less compared to Brownstone Brooklyn. The City’s Million Trees program is trying to change that (although who cares for the trees once planted remains a bit of a mystery).This cultivar of the American Elm is Dutch Elm-resistant, but it isn’t immune. So I’m thinking they should not have planted two of these next to each other.In addition to this Northern Mockingbird, I spotted Double-crested Cormorant, Brant, Gadwell, Bufflehead, American Black Duck, Red-tailed Hawk, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Rock Dove, Starling (already with the yellow bills of breeding), House Sparrow.At the little rock beach at Valentino Pier, several species of marine mollusks were readily found.As well as the usual flotsam and jetsam of the wrack line.Speaking of lines, Red Hook, which takes its name for the Dutch for Red Point, after the color of the soil and the area’s original shape, is a sitting duck for storm surges.Something this mural at Valentino Pier seems to be suggesting. The Great Wave Off Red Hook: I hope not to see it.

Natural Object: Moon Snail

Detail of the spire of a shell of an Atlantic moon snail, also known as a shark’s eye. Polinices duplicatus is found from Cape Cod to Texas. This one was found on the beach at Breezy Point, Queens, NYC.

Whelk egg cases

Telling your whelk egg case strings apart, Southern New England to Mid-Atlantic division:
This is the egg case of the channeled whelk, Busycotypus canaliculatus. Note how the edges of each individual capsule comes together as if pinched, giving each capsule a sharp edge.
This is the egg case string of the knobbed whelk, Busycon carica. Note how the edge of each capsule is flattened, like a sturdy coin.

Each capsule contains 25 or more tiny baby whelks in their tiny baby shells. Here are some of the channeled whelks who didn’t make it:In the palm of my hand. Each is about 3/16ths of an inch long. Check out this earlier posting for views of the baby knobbed whelks.

O, and telling your adults apart is straight-forward:The knobbed whelk, top, has knobs on its spiral. The channeled whelk (7.25″ long), bottom, has a deep groove in its spiral. Both these shells were found at Fort Tilden in Queens (the egg cases were found on Nantucket). Color of the shell can vary: NYC-local whelks don’t have the coral pink interiors you find in Massachusetts.

The phrase “whelk egg cases” and variations thereof, turns out to be one of the most popular internet searches leading to this blog. So this one’s for you, stranger.

And if you like this post, consider subscribing to this blog. It’s free, fun, frequent, and, mostly, accurately informative.

Basic beach

I live on an island. It’s a rather lengthy island, and so, unimaginatively, it’s been called “Long Island” for several centuries now. I’m on its far western end, in the once-upon-a-time city and now borough of Brooklyn, which, uh, doesn’t really think of itself as being a part of “Lon Guyland.” The reasons for this are complicated — historical, political, social, satirical — but not very geographical. For, if you head eastward from here, following either of the two terminal moraines created during the last ice age, you eventually hit the water. But the moraines continue, emerging in Block Island, the Elizabeth Islands, Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and finally, Nantucket (where, once upon a time, I graduated from high school). It was originally all one stretch of land, now divided up by the invading ocean. So there are quite a lot of similarities still.Take these typical bivalves, for instance. This picture was taken on the north shore of Nantucket, but if you comb any beaches around here (Brooklyn), you shouldn’t find these unfamiliar.

Clock-wise from the top: soft-shell clam, Mya arenaria, the “steamer clam” or, for the less polite, the “piss clam”; blood ark, or blood clam, Anadara ovalis, so called because the mollusk has red blood, which is most unusual for a mollusk; common slipper shell, Crepidula fornicata; both halves, or valves, of the quahog, or hard-shell clam, Mercenaria mercenaria; Atlantic oyster, Crassostrea virginica (the ridges on this specimen are unusual); common or blue mussel, Mytellus edulis. I found a nice example of an Atlantic jackknife clam (which we always called “razor clams,” but there’s another species that shares this common name),Ensis directus, a few minutes after I’d passed the composition above: Note the tan coloring here, also seen in the soft-shell clam in the first image: when alive, these shellfish have a skin-like covering to their shells, called the periostracum. In the case of blood arks, it can be hairy looking. The material wears off as it meets the merciless exposure of the beach.

Winkles

Four shells collected at Cape Anne, Massachusetts. The three clustered around the illustration are Common European Periwinkles, Littorina littorea. This winkle, much savored by Old World palates, was first recorded in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 1840, perhaps arriving via rock ballast in ships. Another source says they may have arrived much earlier, upon drifting logs before the Europeans themselves arived on more ornate drifting logs. However they got here, they’re now established on both U.S. coasts and they tend to be bad news for the ecosystem. We should probably be eating them, too.

The white shell on the left is an Atlantic dogwinkle, Nucella lapillus, one of the native species beset by competition and habitat transformation resulting from the abundance of European periwinkles.

Ribbed Mussels

The Atlantic ribbed mussel, Geukensia demissa, at low tide at Calvert Vaux Park. Unlike the more famous (because delicious) blue mussel, Mytilus edulis, the ribbed mussel, which is found up and down the East Coast, prefers brackish waters. They are a keystone species for salt marsh habitat and vital to Jamaica Bay. Establishing beds within the roots of cordgrass like Spartina, the clumps of mussels help to stabilize the plants while providing nutrients for them. They are also food for gulls and I assume other shore birds like oystercatchers. One source notes that while they are edible for humans, they have an unpleasant taste — which I would have thought was a good definition of inedible.
Any port in a storm.


Share

Bookmark and Share

Join 369 other followers

Twitter

Nature Blog Network

Archives


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 369 other followers