Beachcombing, Shells and other Flotsam

A Guide to the Jersey Coast's Beach Treasures


The ocean shoreline is constantly pounded and washed by the surf. All this constant movement also washes things up on the shore. Where ever there are people living near an ocean beach there are also beachcombers that ply the shoreline to see if anything valuable has come ashore.

shells on the beach at the edge of the ocean's waters

Beachcombing has changed a lot through the years. Early residents of Long Beach Island used to keep an eye out for beached whales. Numerous parts of the whale could be useful in and of themselves. Once the whaling industry was firmly established in North America, and regular processing of whale products was in place, a beached whale would bring in a hefty payday. Early beachcombers on LBI would also hope that a piece of lost cargo or the remains of shipwreck might come ashore. Wood from a wrecked ship, food, casks of liquor, trade goods and more might provide food, building materials or something that could be sold for cash.

clam shells on the sand

Today Long Beach Island's beaches are mainly walked by beachcombers looking for different kinds of treasures - like shells or pieces of smooth colored glass. Yet even as things have changed there is a common curiosity that has remained the same. Arriving at a deserted beach, in this century or the last, the question asked still is "I wonder if the ocean has delivered anything interesting today?"

The guide below is meant to serve as a way of figuring out what the washed up treasures, and also those not so precious things, actually are. This resource will grow as we are able to find more information, pictures and even as people ask more questions.

A fairly small number of organisms make up the majority of all the animal detritus that washes ashore. If we don’t worry about our more modern plastic waste, other human debri, and assorted plant parts that can also be found on most beaches today, it is fairly simple to identify the source of most of the shells and curious looking animal parts one can find. Lets start with the....

Sea Shells

whelk shell

Knobbed Whelk Buyscon carica    
some specimens have rounded knobs...

a moon jellyfish on the sand

Knobbed Whelk Buyscon carica    
while others have knobs that have developed into spines or spikes

a false angel wing shell

False Angel Wing Petricolaria pholadiformis   
differs from the angel wing in not having an expansion of its hinge ;

blue mussel

Blue Mussel Mytilus edulis
A common shell with a beautiful blue within its inner shell

jingle shells

Jingle Shell Anomia simplex    
These small shells are common but often overlooked.

a horse mussel shelll

Horse Mussel Modiolus modiolus
One has to hunt around for these mussels, disregarding the blue mussel shells, to find the shell of this species.


xxxxxxJingle Shell xxxxxAnomia simplex    
xxxxxxxxThese small shells are common but often overlooked.

And how about things that are not sea shells, but are the products of living organism....

Other (Once) Living Things

an egg case of a knobbed whelk

knobbed whelk egg case
Buyscon carica    

an egg case of a knobbed whelk

knobbed whelk egg case
Buyscon carica    


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