Beachcombing Guide

Beachcombing Guide

Coastal treasures commonly found on the beach strand at Holden Beach

Angelwings
Auger
Babys Ear
Banded Tulip
Bay Scallop
Calico Scallop
Cockle
Coquina Clams
Coral
Cowry
Cross-barred Venus
Cross-hatched Lucine
Eastern Oyster
Florida Horse Conch
Imperial Venus Clam
Jackknife
Jingles
Keyhold Limpet
Lion’s Paw
Moon Snail / Sand Collar
Murex
Northern Quahog
Olive
Oyster Drillers
Penshell
Periwinkles
Ponderous Ark
Sand Dollars / Sea Biscuit
Scotch Bonnet
Sea Urchin
Shark Tooth
Slipper Snail
Soft Shelled Clam
Spiny Jewel Box Clam
Starfish
Surf Clam
Whelks
Wing Oyster


Angelwings
Pholadidae, known as Piddocks or Angelwings, are a family of bivalve molluscs similar to a clam. The muscles fusing the shell’s valves together are weak, making it rare to find angelwings with both halves still intact.


Auger
The Terebridae, commonly referred to as Auger shells or Auger snails, is a group or family of small to large predatory marine gastropods in the superfamily Conoidea. Augers have extremely high spired shells with numerous whorls, and the common name refers to the resemblance of their shells to rock drill-type drill bits.


Babys Ear
Sinum perspectivum, common name the white Baby Ear, is a species of predatory sea snail, a marine gastropod mollusk in the family Naticidae, the moon snails. It has a shallowly coiled shell with a wide opening and graceful curved outline.


Banded Tulip
Cinctura lilium, common name the Banded Tulip, is a species of sea snail, a marine gastropod mollusk in the family Fasciolariidae. This smooth, gracefully shaped beauty has a moderately thin shell. Colors range from pearly gray with splotches of olive green or tan. It may also have dark brown bands in parallel lines around the shell and can be from 2 to 4 inches.


Bay Scallop
Argopecten irradians, common names Atlantic Bay Scallop or Bay Scallop, is a marine bivalve mollusk in the family Pectinidae, a species of scallop. The shell of an Atlantic Bay Scallop is broadly fan shaped with more than 14 radial ribs. They usually have a molted pattern and come in all sizes and colors. 


Calico Scallop
Argopecten gibbus, the Atlantic Calico Scallop, is a species of medium-sized edible marine bivalve mollusk in the family Pectinidae, the scallops. The shell near the hinge is extended into “ears”, as is the case in all scallops. The fan-shaped shell of the Atlantic Calico Scallop has about 20 radial ribs, which are sometimes roughened by growth lines. It is similar in shape and sculpturing to the Atlantic Bay Scallop. Though similar the stripes are often more pronounced on the Calico Scallop and is more coveted of the two, as it’s flecked with pretty patches of rose, pink, and red.


Cockle
A Cockle is an edible, marine bivalve mollusc. Although many small edible bivalves are loosely called Cockles, true Cockles are species in the family Cardiidae. The distinctive rounded shells are bilaterally symmetrical, and are heart-shaped when viewed from the end.


Coquina Clams
Donax is a genus of small, edible saltwater clams, marine bivalve molluscs. The genus is sometimes known as bean clams or wedge shells; however, Donax species have numerous different common names in different parts of the world. These shells are small – about the size of a fingernail and is characterized by its smooth surface and its dual shell and come in a rainbow of pastel but brilliant colors.


Coral
Marine invertebrates in the class Anthozoa of phylum Cnidaria, come from the shelf edge, approximately 75 miles offshore, known as “Outer Shelf Reefs.”. Coral are reef builders that inhabit oceans and secrete calcium carbonate to form a hard skeleton.


Cowry
Cypraeidae, common name the Cowries, is a taxonomic family of small to large sea snails. These are marine gastropod mollusks in the superfamily Cypraeoidea, the Cowries and Cowry Allies. Cowries are usually smooth and shiny , with a flat under surface which shows a long, narrow, slit-like opening, which is often toothed at the edges.


Cross-barred Venus
Chione cancellata, is a species of medium-sized saltwater clam, a marine bivalve mollusc in the family Veneridae, the venus clams. The cloudy white to yellow-white shells are highly distinctive, with raised, bladelike concentric ridges superimposed on strong radial ribs and giving the shells their characteristic cancellate (crisscrossed) appearance.


Cross-hatched Lucine
Divaricella quadrisulcata, or the Cross-hatched Lucine, is a species of bivalve mollusc in the family Lucinidae. They are generally white in color and have a little tip at one end of their circular shell.


Eastern Oyster
Crassostrea virginica, the Eastern Oyster may also be called North Amerian East Coast Oyster or East Coast Oyster. Like all oysters, it is a bivalve mollusk with a hard shell, which protects it from predation. This particular type of oyster has an important environmental value because it is a filter feeder, cleaning the water around them.


Florida Horse Conch
Triplofusus papillosus, common name the Florida Horse Conch, is a species of extremely large predatory sea snail, a marine gastropod mollusc in the family Fasciolariidae. Although known as a horse conch, this is not a true conch, this species is the largest gastropod in the American waters.


Imperial Venus Clam
Lirophora latilirata, the Imperial Venus Clam, is a bivalve mollusc in the family Veneridae. The shell is rounded, triangular and well-inflated, with large, heavy concentric ridges which are often sharply shelved at the top.


Jackknife
Ensis leei, the Atlantic Jackknife Clam is a large edible marine bivalve mollusc. This shell is most noted for its length. It is primarily a silver, gray color and is shaped like a straight razor. It is primarily a silver, gray color and is shaped like a straight razor. Also known as a razor clam, it gets its name from the rim of the shell being extremely sharp.


 

Jingles
Anomia is a genus of saltwater clams, marine bivalve mollusks in the family Anomiidae. They have translucent shells and are commonly known as Jingle Shells because when a handful of them are shaken they make a jingling sound.


Keyhold Limpet
Fissurellidae, are limpet-like sea snails, marine gastropod molluscs in the clade Vetigastropoda. They name comes from the small hole in the apex of their cone-like shells.


Lion’s Paw
Nodipecten nodosus, or the Lion’s Paw Scallop, is a species of bivalve mollusc in the family Pectinidae. The shell’s common name is derived from its appearance, the color, and the knobs giving it some visual similarities to the paw of a lion.


Moon Snail
Naticidae, are predatory sea snails, marine gastropod molluscs in the clade Littorinimorpha. They will attack almost any other shelled mollusk they encounter in the sand, including other moon snails. They are broad, circular shells that feature a central spiral that gets larger until it reaches an equally circular opening. Also called a Shark Eye, it has four to five whorls that spiral inward to form the “eye”.


Moon Snail – Sand Collar
Sand collars are the characteristic egg masses of one family of sea snails, the moon snails. These egg masses are often found washed up either whole, or sometimes in fragments, on sandy beaches where moon snails are living.


Murex
Murex is a genus of medium to large sized predatory tropical sea snails. These are carnivorous marine gastropod molluscs in the family Muricidae, commonly called “murexes” or “rock snails”. This genus includes many showy members, their elongate shells highly sculptured with spines or fronds.


Northern Quahog
Mercenaria mercenaria, also known as a quahog, round clam or hard-shell clam, is an edible marine bivalve mollusk.


Olive
Olividae , or Olives, are marine gastropod molluscs in the family Olividae. They are carnivorous sand-burrowers in the taxonomic family of medium to large predatory sea snails. With smooth, shiny, cylindrical shaped shells these shells are distinctive for their tight spiral top, their long and skinny opening, and their modest size.


Oyster Drillers
Urosalpinx cinerea, common name the Eastern Oyster Drill or Atlantic Oyster Drill, is a species of small predatory sea snail, a marine gastropod mollusk in the family Muricidae, the murexes or rock snails. The Atlantic oyster driller is a small, predatory snail with a pointed, ribbed shell. The oyster driller grows to about one inch in length. Its oval-shaped shell varies in color from gray or purplish to tan or yellowish-white and has a pointed spire or tip. The shell has five to six raised whorls; brown, spiraling vertical ribs; and a thin, flared lip with small teeth.


Penshell
Pinna nobilis, common name the noble pen shell or fan mussel, is a large species of Mediterranean clam, a marine bivalve mollusc in the family Pinnidae. Its shape differs depending on the region it inhabits. Delicate and beautiful they are distinctive for its iridescent exterior which can exude a rainbow of colors in the light.

Atrina serrata, or saw-toothed pen shell; thin and fragile, it has a that’s ridged and colored a deep, smoky brown.

Atrina rigida, commonly called the rigid pen shell; they have a long, triangular, or wedge-shaped shell. They are a brown or purplish-brown color and have 15 or more radiating ribs that fan out across the shell.


Periwinkles
Littorina littorea, the common periwinkle is a species of small edible whelk or sea snail, a marine gastropod mollusc that has gills and an operculum, and is classified within the family Littorinidae, the periwinkles. These shells are distinctive for their conical shapes and intricate forms.


Ponderous Ark
Noetia ponderosa, or the ponderous ark clam, is a clam in the family Noetiidae.


Sand Dollars
Sand dollars are species of flat, burrowing sea urchins belonging to the order Clypeasteroida. Some species within the order, not quite as flat, are known as sea biscuits. This round sea urchin is tan to light brown, have a fivefold radial pattern, and its five slots resemble keyholes. The sand dollar you find on the beach is actually the skeleton of a variety of sea urchin. Dead Sand Dollars are commonly found with their empty test devoid of all surface material and bleached white by sunlight. Living Sand Dollars, those that are brown or green and sport fuzz, should be gently returned to the sea. Sand dollars are extremely fragile and it’s rare to find one fully intact. 

Sea Biscuit
Fossilized Sand Dollars


Scotch Bonnet
Semicassis granulate, the Scotch Bonnet, is a medium-sized to large species of sea snail, a marine gastropod mollusk in the subfamily Cassinae. The common name “Scotch bonnet” alludes to the general outline and color pattern of the shell, it is named for its resemblance to the caps and plaid worn by the Scottish. This gorgeous shell features a conical shape, with a ridged body often covered with brown speckles. Scotch Bonnets, especially intact ones, are an incredibly rare find. They are also the official state shell of North Carolina.


Sea Urchin
Arbacia punctulate, has a flattened, globular, calcareous shell made up of skeletal plates.


Shark Tooth
Sharks continually shed their teeth. Coastal North Carolina is a hot spot for shark teeth because sharks live along the coast and the region is situated above fossil deposits. 


Slipper Snail
Crepidula fornicata, also known as common Atlantic Slipper Snail, boat shell, quarterdeck shell, fornicating slipper snail and Atlantic Slipper Limpet. This is a species of medium-sized sea snail, a marine gastropod mollusc in the family Calyptraeidae.


Soft Shelled Clam
Mya arenaria, Soft-shell clams, popularly called “steamers”, “softshells”, “piss clams”, “Ipswich clams”, or “Essex clams” are a species of edible saltwater clam, a marine bivalve mollusk in the family Myidae. These shells are very thin and easily broken, hence the name “soft-shells.” They can be white, cream, brown, gold, or gray.


Spiny Jewel Box Clam
Arcinella cornuta, or the spiny jewel box clam, is a species of bivalve mollusc in the family Chamidae. The shell itself is thick and heavy for its size. Fresh shell specimens will have more distinct erect tubular spines on the 7-9 rows (ribs) across the shell, radiating from the beak. The shells are commonly found on southern beaches, but most of the spines have been broken off by the surf.


Starfish
Asterias rubens, the common starfish, which is not a fish but are star-shaped echinoderms. Belonging to the family Asteriidae, the common starfish normally has five arms, broad at their base and gradually tapering to a point at their tips, which are often turned up slightly.


Surf Clam
Spisula solidissima, also known as Atlantic surf clam, bar clam, hen clam or skimmer. It is a very large, edible, saltwater clam or marine bivalve mollusk in the family Mactridae.


Whelks
Whelks are a species of large predatory sea snail, a marine gastropod mollusk, a busycon whelk, belonging to the family Busyconidae. Often mistaken for conch shells, whelks are noted for being striking in appearance. They have conical shapes with spiral tops, and often have wide openings. Depending on the species, some shells have spikes or ridges towards the top. The three most common varieties of whelks include Lightning Whelks, Knobbed Whelks and Channel Whelks. To identify the Lightening Whelk from the Channel Whelk, remember this: Lightening’s open on the left, and Channeled Whelks open on the right.

Lightning Whelks are similar appearance to the Knobbed Whelk but with a left-side opening. This means the snail is left-handed and the body is on the left as it travels forward with the spire in the rear.

Knobbed Whelks have several triangular knobbed spirals that taper to a long siphon canal.

Channeled Whelks are easy to classify with its deep channeled spirals and weak knobbs, if any.


Wing Oyster
Pteria colymbus, or Atlantic winged oyster is a species of bivalve mollusc in the family Pteriidae. The Wing Oyster has a distinctive, asymmetric shape. It has a long straight hinge with one wing drawn out a long way and the other one much smaller. On the beach, they look like a broken cockle shell, if you don’t notice the wings.