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  • Writer's pictureCaptain Dave

What the shell?

Updated: Jan 30, 2023

Every Summer on Florida's West coast we get an abundance of new shells coming with on shore West winds and the occasional storm, but one in particular is always here, you just have to wait for the waves to roll off the shore.

Donax variabilis, AKA the common coquina is sure to catch the attention of local beach combers of Southwest Florida as they become visible when the waves run back to sea. They scramble to burrow back under the wet sand to avoid being scooped up by local shore birds as a quick snack or the occasional Floridian that knows what an amazing fish stock can be made with the collection of a few quarts of these colorful little mollusks.

The coquina is found along the East coast of the U.S. from Virginia through the Florida Keys and along Florida's West coast. Like other bivalves such as clams and oysters, the coquina filter feeds small plankton and other single celled organisms when buried in the wet sand. They are super fun to dig up and let squirm through your wet sand filled fingers (you can feel them trying to get through!), and can easily fill your shell collection with a rainbow of colors not found on many other local shells.

Don't forget to look for these little guys next time you are on the shores of Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel and Captiva Islands, or book an eco tour with Captain Dave to learn more about Southwest Florida's fantastic ecology, have a great weekend everyone!

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