Every sheller dreams of finding a rare specimen for their collection. On Sanibel, the odds favor that more than almost anywhere else in the world. Again, what you finding is a matter of luck, but rest assured that you have as good of a chance as any expert of being in the right place at the right time.
Among the most sought after shells:
A creamy white shell with brown to orange, squared spots. Not really native to the islands, the Junonia lives at depths up to 200 feet, where it is not rare. It is frequently brought up in shrimp nets, which explains why there are many available in local shell shops. What is rare is the shell washing up on the beach. The Gulf beaches, during the winter months are your best bet for finding one.
If the Junonia is a sheller’s dream, the Lion’s Paw is the Holy Grail. Like the Junonia, this scallop isn’t native to the islands, but thrives in deep water. After a strong storm, you might find a single valve (half) on the beach. The shell is beautiful, rather heavy for its size and quite strong. There are 7-9 ribs, marked with smaller “riblets” and bumps. Lion’s Paws are usually a deep, red wine color. Yellow and orange colors are possible, but extremely rare.
Despite the name, there is nothing common about the Sundial. Circular and dome shaped, the Sundial has 6 or 7 whorls with several “beaded” cords of purples and browns. The base color is whitish grey or tan. Chances of finding one on the beach are slim at any time of the year, but not impossible.
This beauty, which grows to a size of 2” to 4”, likes to dine on Sea Urchins and Sand Dollars and therefore lives in shallow water. A sturdy shell, it is rounded with 5 whorls and a short, pointed nose. Base color is creamy white with square, light brown spots.
Also called Bumpless Wonder, this rare specimen is not a deformed Horse Conch missing its bumps, but rather a different, smaller variety. Growing up to 18”, the Knobless Wonder is very rare, only living in the waters around Sanibel and Captiva and occasionally as far south as Marco Island.