Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club Conducts Live Mollusk Count

provided to The Santiva Chronicle

Counting mollusks on a sand bar during the Live Mollusk Count conducted by the Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club. Photo by Club Member Bill Smith of Venice, Fla.

On the morning of Jan. 3, when the tide was at its lowest of the season, about 50 Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club members and friends braved the bad weather to conduct the first-ever Live Mollusk Count. Mollusks are the animals who create the shells which make Sanibel’s beach one of the best places in the country to collect them.

The live mollusk count was conducted in honor of the Shell Count started 60 years ago by the club to document how many different species of shells they could find. The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum, solely devoted to the study of shells and mollusks, has now identified 400 species of mollusks found in our water and on the beach.

Shell Museum Curator and Scientific Director Dr. Jose Leal said a live mollusk count would have scientific value even though it would be a “snapshot” of a single low tide on one day.

The club divided the beach into half-mile segments and two-member teams, armed with clipboards, data forms and rulers for scale in photographs of unknown or unusual species, were assigned to walk a segment from 7 to 9 a.m. The photographs will be sent to Dr. Leal for identification and added to the species count.

The club reports the number of live mollusks found varied from one section of beach to another – some teams saw two or three mollusks while others found more than 1,000. The teams gathered at the shell museum at the completion of their walk and turned in their data forms and enjoyed homemade cookies. Club member Joe Heist will compile the collected data and turn it over to the shell museum.

Despite the weather that day, the Live Mollusk Count was deemed a success in scientific value and as the first in-person shell club activity since the Sanibel Shell Show in March 2020 due to the pandemic. Participants agreed the count should become an annual event.

The shell club thanks Sanibel Moorings, Sundial Beach Resort, West Wind Inn, Shalimar Cottages and Tropical Winds for allowing members to park at those locations.

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