Patrick coined a term- “shunting”, or shell hunting- to describe one of my preferred beach activities. Shunting with the munchkins reveals a little about their emerging aesthetic preferences. For example, Micah tends to crow with delight when she discovers a large, colorful shell that is intact. Max, on the other hand, brings his “pure white” shells to me and explains how the white shells “may have been around the longest because they are bleached by sand and sun”. Tiny Mills proudly parades each and every shell she manages to pick up and tote over to us without dropping; for her, the “beauty” is intertwined with the “success” of finding and toting any shell whatsoever.
After collecting shells, we bring them up to the condo and the girls wash and sort each shell. The sorting categories are simple- shells with holes and shells without holes. The shells with holes are set aside for string-based creations while the shells without holes are set aside for other options, including shell chess. Micah wanted to know “what makes the holes”. I told her that I thought it might be the way that the creatures who lived inside the shells got out when it was time to “go” or time to “grow”. We were both satisfied with this explanation.
Over the past few days, I made shell and bead anklets for each munchkin. The symbolism of the tiny holes and each shells being home to a story of a creature who grew scurried through my head as I tied knots and added beads. Of course, Max quickly stepped into the story with a heavy dose of reality.
“Actually mom, the holes in those shells are how the dogwinkles and drills slowly bore into the shell to suck out the creatures and eat them. Those holes are ways to kill. But don’t worry- that’s how the dogwinkles and drills get their food, and they have to live too. Not all shell creatures get eaten- just some of them. That’s why not all the shells have holes in them…..”
Sure enough, it turns out that the dogwinkle snail, also known as the dog whelk, is a species of predatory sea snail, “a carnivorous marine gastropod mollusc in the family Muricidae, the rock snails”. However, the dogwinkle snail prefers rocky shores, and Orange Beach is far from rocky, so I told Max that this particular predator might not be the one making all the holes in the shells we found along the beach.
Other predatory shell-drilling creatures include the moon snail, the oyster drill (Max’s “drill”), and other predatory ocean snails.
Milla sports her “shanklet”, or shell anklet.
If you or your family would like to chase a few butterflies, I recommend following:
Pebbles with holes whodunit (Jessica’s Nature Blog)
Another story of misinformed shunting (Made by Meg)
Chunky shell necklace (Design Squish)
DIY gold-dipped seashell necklace (Delighted Momma)