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Jingle shells tinkle, shimmer along beaches

By Staff | Jun 19, 2009

The word jingle brings to mind Christmas bells and the light ringing sound they make, the song jingle bells or a short slogan frequently used in advertising that is designed to be easily remembered. But, if you spend much time at the beach the word jingle takes on a whole new meaning.

Jingle shells were so named because if you take a handful of these thin, translucent clamshell halves, and shake them together they make a jingling sound. Jingle shells (Anomia simplex) are a bivalve mollusks in the family Anomidae. They can be found as far north as the coast of Nova Scotia, and in the opposite direction to south of Brazil. Anomiidae is a family of bivalve mollusks related to scallops and oysters. The jingle shell is known by several other names including, saddle oysters, windowpane oysters, mermaid’s toenails and kapis shells.

Anomia simplex are very thin, paper-like, translucent, shells. Translucent materials allow light to diffusely pass through them but cannot be seen through. Their composition is soft so they are easily crushed. and then they gleam like polished metal. When it is crushed jingle shells crack into layers of thin flakes and look almost like the mineral mica. The mantle or fleshy part of the animal grows to the point where it surrounds the byssus, forming a hole near the shell edge. The byssus is comprised of thread-like filaments used to permanently attach to a rock or large shell. Eventually the byssus becomes as hard as cement.

Jingle shells are usually about 1′ 2″ in diameter, often with jagged edges. The range of color is as varied as scallops, displaying everything from yellow to red or black and silvery gray, with a finish similar to frosted nail polish. The shell conforms to the shape of the object it is attached to. The upper valve is concave, with the lower valve being flatter. The cup-like upper valve ends up on shore when the animal dies with the lower valve found much less frequently.

Mollusks, especially bivalves such as clams and mussels, are important food sources throughout the world. Despite their attractive appearance, jingle shells don’t make a good meal, having in fact a very bitter and unpleasant taste. Other uses have been discovered for the soft parts of this species. They are used to manufacture chalk, glue, and paint. This is a species of shells that is very popular with the shell crafters.

Jingle shells are strung together to make wind chimes or curtains that can hang in a doorway. They also are used for flower petals in flower arrangements and in the creation of jewelry and lampshades. Children seem to gravitate to this species of shells perhaps because their extraordinary luster gives them an almost jewel appearance as they are hit by the sun’s rays.

This Week At The Museum:

Monday, June 22nd Time: 2 p.m. Live Tank Demonstration Cost: Museum Entrance Fee

Tuesday, June 23rd, 11:30 a.m. Workshop: How to Find, Clean, and Pack Shells For Safe Travel Cost: Museum entrance fee.

Wednesday, June 24th, 11:30 a.m. Workshop: How to Find, Clean, and Pack Shells For Safe Travel Cost: Museum entrance fee.

Thursday, June 25th, 9:00 a.m. Free guided beach walk sponsored by The Shell Museum and J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge. Walk led by Dotty DeVasure and Pam Burt. Participants will meet at Gulfside Park, Algiers Road, Sanibel at 9:00 am. The walk will last about an hour. . Bug spray, water, hat, and sunscreen suggested. Sanibel Parking fee- $2.00/hour.

Friday, June 26th 10 a.m.-11 a.m. Story Time At The Museum Ages: 3 & Up with parents. Cost: free Join us for a special story about the sea, tidal pools, what’s under the sea and much more. Story time will be followed by a visit to the Museum’s live tank to view the animals that make shells.