Thursday, September 27, 2007
I found these shells at the beach at Asilomar a couple of years ago. They're called Janthina-Janthina and they travel through the oceans in mucous bubbles attached to the Velella-Velellas (bluish jelly fish) that land on shore. The shells are so delicate and small. I have kept them in a little plastic jewelery box and rediscovered them a few days ago hidden at the back of the glove compartment of my car (which I rarely go into these days because I usually bicycle everywhere!).
Another interesting Janthina fact: the little animals inside the shells start out as males and later transform into females!
When I first saw the shells laying on the beach in a little group, I thought they had to be plastic with that rich periwinkle color. How could such a bright color appear out of the grey fog and how could those perfect little delicate shells just be there for me to find on the brown grainy wet sand? Why didn't anyone else see them? When I got home that day, I called the education department of the Monterey Bay Aquarium to find out more about them and was asked to bring them in. The education director there told me they were a rare find of a rather common pelagic sea snail that they had not seen on the Monterey Peninsula for over 40 years.