April Shell of the Month: Venerupis philippinarum (A. Adams & Reeve, 1850)
To a cochologist, mollusks are collected for the beauty and variety of their shells. Certain mollusks are collected for their edibility and taste. Venerupis philippinarium, commonly known as the Manilla Clam, is a favorite of moon snails (Euspira lewisii), the Atlantic oyster drill (Urosalpinx cinerea), Dungeness crab (Metacarcinus magister), red rock crab (Cancer productus), bat rays (Mylobatus californicus), flounder, sturgeon, willet (Catoptrophorus semipalmatus), ring billed gulls (Larus delawarensis), raccoons (Procyon lotor) among others and last but most important human beings.
Although going by the moniker “Manila”, Venerupis philppinarum is not indigenous to the the Philippines. It is originally from China and was introduced to Manilia Bay where it flourished. It has also been brought to the California Coast as a food source. It lives intertidal in bays and estuaries, prefers muddy or sand and mud bottoms where it borrows about one inch deep.
This bivalve is oval-elongate and sculptured with fine ribs, generally decorated with tent like patterns. It grows to about 2-3″. Shells collected in muddy areas are drab.
The Manila clam is typically steamed in its own liquor or white wine, garlic and butter, topped with fresh parsley and lemon wedge and often severed over pasta.
Our specimens were hand selected out of hundreds for their detailed pattern from the steam table at the Pharoah’s Buffet in the Luxor Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada in 2013. They were savored before being saved. April fool!
The actually shell of the month will be announced in a few days – you will like the set we have for you in April.
Conus mercator Linnaeus, 1758
Cypraea zonaria Gmelin, 1791
Persicula persicula Lamarck, 1822
This month our shells come from Senegal, located on the “Bulge of Africa” – the westernmost point of the continent. Senegal is midway between the Tropic of Cancer and the Equator. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to reach the bulge in 1444. In 1677 the French took control of Gorée Island, in the harbor of what is now Dakar, and used it as a base in the slave trade. Senegal then became a French possession and remained so until it gained independence.
Senegal is home to many desirable shells, but unfortunately for us, due to the ties with France, very few specimens come our way. Unlike in the Indo-Pacific Oceans where species have extended ranges, in the Atlantic virtually no species of shells are found across the ocean. The coast off Senegal and neighboring countries have their own distinct shells and most are endemic to the area.
Conus Mercator is named after the great cartologist Geradus Mercator who was the creator of the first atlas. It is very variable in pattern and that makes it fascinating to collect. Most specimens on the market come from the offshore Cape Verde Islands but ours in from the mainland. Conus Mercator typically has spire and body erosion; this is a very clean specimen. It small for a conus and this specimen is just barely 30mm.
Cypraea (zonaria) zonaria is indigenous to West Africa. It is quite variable in size, shape and color. Unlike Conus Mercator that exhibits great variety from the same location, zonarias tend to vary according to location.
The marginella family is exceptionally well represented on the Atlantic of Africa with an extensive list of specie in many different families. Perisicula periscula is quite attractive with its evenly spotted pattern.
Recent sales on ebay would put the combined value of these three shells at between $40 and $50. They were donated by Richard Kent.
Stellaria solaris Linne, 1764 Netted in sand and mud bottom off Phu Quoc, Vietnam Size: about 3 1/2″ including spines. (90mm)
Although they are a member of the carrier shells, Stellaria solaris does not collect and attach to its shell. Commercial trawling has made thiese shells more available however perfect specimens are near impossible to obtain. According to author and Viet Nam shell expert Nguyen Thach most all specimens are damaged in collecting. Too bad. Stellaria solaris is usually collected from offshore waters in either South-East Asia or the Philippines.
Our thanks to Linda Ebeling and Richard Kent for their generous donations to the Raffle Table at the February meeting. All items are always welcome!
Oliva irisans Lamarck, 1811
Olives are one of the most fascinating families of shells to collect. Although any olive is immediately recognizable, these glossy shells come in an infinite variety of color patterns, shape and size. Here in Florida, olives are one of the easier shells for the beginner to collect as they often live in shallow water, burrowed in the sand. They are scavengers and predators. They are communal and will share a meal with others. Empty shells are common in beach drift.
Olives present challenges. Scientists disagree on the nomenclature and the name that appears in the dealers list and shell books is often different than the currently accepted scientific name. These five specimens can often be found identified as Oliva lignaria Marrat, 1868. Recently it was decided that lignaria is a synonym for a different shell named Oliva ornata Marrat 1867. Oliva ornata may not even be a species, itself a variety of Oliva irisans Lamarck 1811 which is now the currently accepted name. Hold on, these may also be identified instead as Oliva concinna, Marrat, 1870. No concinna is a form based on structure of irisans – Oliva irisans forma concinna Marrat 1870. Very confusing! To become an expert on olive identification one must learn all about filament channels, columellar callosity, and fasciole. It gets technical! The color varieties too all have been named, such as Oliva irisans forma oldi Zeigler 1969 which is the heavily mottled shell.
These shells were donated from the collection of Richard Kent. They came from Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines. It took much time and searching to assemble a couple of color sets. Interestingly, the common plain pattern shells are now hard to obtain as only the scarcer color patterns are collected by divers as these bring the highest prices. ps: still searching for the very rare albino variation.
Pleuroploca (now Triplofusus) gigantea, Kiener, 1840 Collected by diver in 20′ depth off Clearwater, Florida.
Yes…this is THE Florida State Shell, the Horse Conch and most of us are very familiar with it. It is found throughout Florida and was thus the perfect candidate for our state shell. It is a carnivorous specie and will attack the like of Strombus gigas and many other species to the point that Bahamians who find this shell rarely in the Bahamas always eliminate it for that reason.