Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Coquina Clam Wednesday

I guess you could say that I took a vacation day, today. :-) I did a slight bit of house cleaning, grocery shopping, and that was it. No beach for me today. So, I decided to do a post about one of my favorite little seashells, the Coquina Clam. I have gathered hundreds of of these from the Sanibel shore. I've filled containers with them to display and to give away. So, here are some photos and a little information about them.



The Coquina (Donax varabilis) is also called a wedge, bean, Pompano or butterfly shell. They are very abundant on Florida's beaches and are many different colors and patterns.





The clam is no longer than half of an inch. Two siphons, that look like snorkels, extend from the hinged shells which form the bivalve. One of the siphons takes in oxygen and food-bearing water; the other pumps out oxygen and wastes. The underside of the mollusks body is used as a foot to dig in the sand.

Coquinas live just under the surface of the sand, in an area that is usually exposed a couple of times a day, by the changing tides. They position themselves following the incoming or outgoing of each wave, as that is where they find nourishment. The shells of all mollusks are formed from lime that they extract from the sea.

If you have seen small shells rapidly dig themselves into the sand after they are washed ashore, they were probably coquinas. The shore birds you see pecking in the sand, may be looking for these tasty little morsels. I am only guessing they are tasty, since I haven't tried them myself. But, I've heard that washed and boiled they make a very good chowder.





If you happen to be a shell collector and a crafty person, you might want to try making a coquina shell necklace. I ran across the directions for the necklace on Martha Stewart's site. There is also a video showing how to make a shell wreath.

The beautiful, pastel colors are very useful in many crafts. Next time you walk the Sanibel beaches, bend over a little further and look a little closer, to find your own coquinas.

16 comments:

ღ Alice ღ said...

They look like such beautiful little shells. They would be a great gift for like a bby shower where you have to count how many are in the bowl but it would have to be for beach/shell lovers ofcourse :)

Gayle said...

Okay, I'll admit it...the first thing I noticed was the Nemo lamp. (I have kids, you know!). Tink sent me some of those shells. I was amazed at the variety of colors. I can't believe them have enough "stuff" in them to make chowder. Interesting! I am looking forward to a trip to Sanibel. I am going to have to have a suitcase just for shells!

antigoni said...

Your house is the heaven of shells.
The colours are amazing. I have many of these shells not from Sanibel island but from Greek beaches. I haven't taste them but i have taste other shells and they are delicious.

Denise said...

I will have to look at what we picked up on Sanibel to see if we have any. BTW, love your Nemo lamp!

Dave said...

Watching (and hearing!) these little guys dig into the sand after a wave comes in is one of the quiet joys of spending time in Sanibel.

Looking forward to it in a couple months....

Little Black Scrap Cat said...

These shells are a favorite. Love to watch the live ones dig themselves into the sand. You must have painstakingly arranged them all perfectly as I see no undersides showing!! Such patience!!

Snowbird said...

OK, I'm with Gayle. I noticed and loved the Nemo lamp. I love looking for Coquinas too. When my kids were little and we were on some other beach somewhere in Florida (don't remember where) they were catching live ones and putting them in a glass. Hey, I didn't know about live shell rules then. LOL. Guess we should have made chowder.

gpc said...

They really are beautiful -- it used to be that coquinas were the only live shell you could collect on sanibel - I wonder if that's still true? -- and they are supposed to make a great broth.

christabelle said...

Tootie, the coquina shells are beautiful. How do you keep them so shiny? I've applied mineral oil to my shells once and they looked beautiful, but I've noticed they have lost their luster. Do I need to apply the mineral oil more than once? Never the less your collection is beautiful!! Thanks for sharing.

Tootie said...

Christabelle, I used to mineral oil my shells, but I quit doing that, for the reason you mentioned. As for the little coquina shells, I didn't put anything on them at all.

Other shells that I plan to display in some way; I put one very light coat of polyeuratene on with a little sponge brush. You can find the kind I use etc on my Treasures From the Sea blog.

http://tootiestakeonsanibel.blogspot.com/2008/09/shell-cleaning.html

Tootie said...

should have done a proof read before posting that and corrected my mistakes. :-) But it's close enough that I think you'll get the idea.

Tink *~*~* said...

I actually ran across a recipe for coquina broth one time, but you need an awful lot of them to make a go of chowder!

I love the Nemo lamp :)

Tink *~*~*

Lynn said...

We just returned home to Vermont from a wonderful week in Sanibel. Our big question of the week was what makes the colors of the coquinas different? Do you know?

Tootie said...

I've been told that the color and design of a shell depends on the diet of the animal. But, like you, I'm curious about the Coquina because there are so many different colors and they all feed in similar areas, just under the surface of the sand. You would think they are eating the same type of thing.

dizzylizzy said...

Beautiful assortment of coquinas. I too had gathered a ziploc full to bring home from out trip - so many different colors - like butterflies. Alas, they are lost. Do you know WHERE I CAN PURCHASE AN ASSORTMENT with all the diverse colors such as those you've arranged so perfectly in your cube glass jar? All sources I've searched on the internet just have one color only or are not as vivid. THANK YOU!

Tootie said...

Dizzylizzy, I really don't know where you can find the bright colored ones for sale. I haven't seen alot of them coming in recently. I'm not sure if they are more abundant at certain times of the year, or not. Sorry I'm not any help. I'm hoping you will find yours. :)