Shell of the Day

This is the largest shell in my collection by far. It was inherited so I have no provenance and as yet no family narrative. It’s making classification difficult. Gastropoda, yes. My guess is a baler/bailer volute, genus melo from the family Volutidae. Definitely not from NSW.




There are ubiquitous limpets in the sea and in my collection. Initially when I started writing this post, I had a negligible level of interest in limpets. I liked their stripes and sometimes their shape but otherwise they were just one of those shells I collected hundreds of as an eight-year old. But then I saw this dude and I thought, hey, he’s kinda neat.

Patelloida from Des Beechey’s Seashells of New South Wales (Beechey 2012)

Unsurprisingly limpets were exploited by Aboriginal people all along the eastern coastline of Australia and are often found in shell middens. A summary of common shellfish found in the middens of coastal Sydney can be read on the Australian Museum Website. For a more specific example, limpets were excavated from shell middens in the Royal National Park (Attenbrow 2010).

I think most of the limpets in my collection belong to the following classification:

Species: tramoserica
Genus: Cellana
Family: Nacellidae
Order: Patellogastropoda
Phylum: Mollusca

For all the gastropod glory, I don’t think I’ll bother too much with cleaning the limpets unless I am inspired to undertake shell craft.  Not so long ago I was in the Powerhouse museum and saw some of the delightfully kitsch shell craft harbour bridges made by Lola Ryan. Here’s the accompanying paper discussing shell craft by Aboriginal women at La Perouse and the shell craft economy.

Shell of the Day – Scutus Antipode

CLARE: I can’t believe how excited I am about this project. I’ve been itching for 5pm since 9am.

GENERAL (imaginary) AUDIENCE: But Clare, everybody wishes work was over on a Friday.

CLARE: But most people on Friday wish work was over for parties and friends and alcoholic beverages.

GENERAL (imaginary) AUDIENCE: And sleep, you forgot sleep.

CLARE: … and for sleep. But I wanted work to be over for this….

Have you seen anything so damn bloody adorable?? Look at his little eye! (Source: Barwon Bluff Marine Sanctuary, click for link). I haven’t been this overwhelmed by cuteness since fighting Diablo in Act IV of Diablo II. And I’ve spent a lot of unnecessary hours looking at little bunnies at Cute Overload.

The elephant slug is actually a marine snail that grazes on algae and belongs to the same family (Fissurellidae) as key-hole limpets.  They often turn up in Aboriginal shell middens in Victoria. The black flesh was cut away to eat the muscular foot (Museum of Victoria). I believe all of my specimens of elephant slug/snail come from NSW.


Scutus Antipode in my collection


For Katie…

A preliminary sort

This is what three quarters of my shell collection looks like after last night’s sorting…

For the last twelve years they’ve been sitting in wicker baskets, gathering dust, disintegrating. They were also taking up a lot less room.