Mud Creepers

Mud Creepers (1) -  Empty shell of Telescopium telescopium L., Mud Whelk, at Cairns, Queensland, Australia, with remains of an oyster shell and barnacles attached.

Telescopus by Dominic Johns - A sculpture on the esplanade at Cairns, Queensland, Australia. Mud Creepers are a common sight on the tidal mud flats at Cairns in Queensland, Australia. Also called Telescope Shells, Mudwhelks, Telescopic Creepers, or Mangrove Mud Whelk. The Latin name is Telescopium telescopium L. They are so emblematic of the place that they have been glorified by a fantastic piece of sculpture by Dominic Johns on the Esplanade.

The reality, however, is that this large gastropod marine mollusc – living on the glutinous muds exposed by the ebbing tide – is not the most attractive of seashore creatures, in fact, a bit creepy. It is dark in colour, about 6 inches long, and the shell is very thick and heavy, The protruding muscular foot and tubular siphon of the animal are hard to distinguish from the mud itself but I believe the flesh is edible.

Telescopus by Dominic Johns - A sculpture on the esplanade at Cairns, Queensland, Australia.This sea snail seems to struggle as it drags its weighty shell across the mud in strange irregular movements without the supporting medium of water. The furrows incidentally ploughed by the shells leave networks of trails on the mud. In life the shells are often caked with mud but empty shells washed up on the beach show there is actually a great striped pattern.

Mud Creepers (2) - Empty shell of the Mud Whelk or Mud Creeper, Telescopium telescopium L held to show the apertural end at Cairns, Queensland, Australia.

Mud Creepers (3) -  Empty shell of Telescopium telescopium L., Mud Whelk, on the shore at Cairns, Queensland, Australia.

Mud Creepers (4) -  Empty shell of Telescopium telescopium L., Mud Whelk, on the shore at Cairns, Queensland, Australia, with remains of an oyster shell and barnacles attached.

Mud Creepers (5) -  Empty shell of Telescopium telescopium L., Mud Whelk, on the shore at Cairns, Queensland, Australia.

Mud Creepers (6) -  Empty shells of Telescopium telescopium L., Mud Whelk, on the shore at Cairns, Queensland, Australia. One shell has barnacles attached.

Mud Creepers (7) -  Empty shell of Telescopium telescopium L. on the beach at Cairns, Queensland, Australia, with fiddler crabs.

Mud Creepers (8) - Empty shell of Telescopium telescopium L., Mud Whelk, on the shore at Cairns, Queensland, Australia. The shell has barnacles attached.

Mud Creepers (9) - The tidal mudflats at cairns, Queensland, Australia - habitat of Telescopium telescopium L., the Mud Creeper, Mud Whelk, Telescopic Creeper, or Mangrove Mud Whelk.

Mud Creepers (10) - The tidal mudflats at Cairns, Queensland, Australia - habitat of Telescopium telescopium L., the Mud Creeper, Mud Whelk, Telescopic Creeper, or Mangrove Mud Whelk.

Mud Creepers (11) - The tidal mudflats at Cairns, Queensland, Australia - habitat of Telescopium telescopium L., the Mud Creeper, Mud Whelk, Telescopic Creeper, or Mangrove Mud Whelk.

Mud Creepers (12) - Living specimen of Telescopium telescopium L., the Mangrove Mud Whelk, crawling through the glutinous mud at low tide, its heavy shell making a furrow behind it as it is dragged along, Cairns, Queensland, Australia.

Mud Creepers (13) - Trails left in the mud where living Telescopium telescopium Mangrove Mud Whelks have dragged their heavy shells along when the tide is out.

Mud Creepers (14) - Empty shell of Telescopium telescopium L. on the beach at Cairns, Queensland, Australia.

Mud Creepers (15) - Empty shell of Telescopium telescopium L. on the beach at Cairns, Queensland, Australia.

Mud Creepers (16) - Empty shell of Telescopium telescopium L. on the beach at Cairns, Queensland, Australia.

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Shelly Perspectives

Digitally altered macro-photographs of natural patterns and textures in bivalved seashells.

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Big Quahog Clam at Studland Bay

Seashell picture: A large Quahog clam, an introduced species to Britain, viewed from the anterior end and showing the heart-shaped lunule, at South Beach, Studland Bay, Dorset, UK - part of the Jurassic Coast (1) 

In the heavy, squally rain of last Friday, I found this really large and weighty living specimen of bivalved mollusc washed up on the sand at Studland Bay’s South Beach, Dorset. It doesn’t look like a common British species on account of its great size…and it isn’t. It is a Quahog – Mercenaria mercenaria (Linnaeus) - which is a native clam of the north eastern United States of America. This type of mollusc was introduced to the British Isles accidentally in the middle of the 19th century. It is thought to have been introduced to our waters by ships such as cruise liners travelling from the States to south coast ports like Southampton in England – maybe surviving when some clams were thrown overboard with other food refuse once they were no longer fresh.

Quahogs have a rounded triangular outline and measure upto 120 mm long, i.e. about 5 inches. They are light brown to grey in colour and have many thin concentric ridges which are raised and sharp at the anterior and posterior ends, and also in new growth areas, on the outside surface of their thick shells. The ridges are smoother in the middle of larger shells. In front of the rounded prominences known as the umbones there is a beautiful, distinctive, and striated heart-shaped area called the lunule where the left and right valves join. Quahogs live in mud on the low shore or just off-shore.

The photographs show this lovely creature from various angles and as it was first seen on the beach. This magnificent mollusc was returned to the sea – I am not sure how rare it might be in this location.

Studland Bay seashells: A large Quahog clam, an introduced species to Britain, viewed from the posterior end and showing the external ligament, at South Beach, Studland Bay, Dorset, UK - part of the Jurassic Coast (2) 

Quahog photograph: A large Quahog clam, an introduced species to Britain, viewed from the right side, at South Beach, Studland Bay, Dorset, UK - part of the Jurassic Coast (3) 

The living Quahog clam as it was found washed up on the sand at South Beach, Studland Bay, Dorset, UK (4) 

Revision of a post first published 1 December 2009

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Scallop Shells from Studland Beach

Seashell pictures: An assortment of small, multi-coloured, variegated scallop shells from the beach at Studland Bay, Dorset, UK on the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. 

An assortment of the variously patterned and multi-coloured scallop shells found on the sandy strandline at Studland Bay in Dorset. These are all small shells about an inch (25mm) across. Scallops are bivalved molluscs that are unusual in that group of species because they can swim through the water by “clapping” the two hinged shells together.

See the earlier Post Sea shell from Studland  for another photograph of one these delightful intricately-patterned shells in situ on the beach – just as it was left by the tide.

Seashell picture: An assortment of small, multi-coloured, variegated scallop shells from the beach at Studland Bay, Dorset, UK on the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site (1).

[This is a revised version of a post first published 12 March 2009].

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Cockle Shells

Just a snapshot of some multi-coloured shells of the common edible cockle, Cerastoderma edule (Linnaeus).

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Images of a small striped mussel shell

I really loved the way the light shone through this small mussel shell on my window sill. We normally think of mussel shells as being dull and blue-black in colour but younger, smaller, specimens have more interesting patterns and colours – like this one with its pale cream shell and chequered pattern of blue stripes. The outer, horny, papery periostracum can been see as an irregular buff colour patchy coating.




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