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Sea Turtle

03 April 
World Aquatic Animals Day

It is said that if you hold a seashell up to your ear, you will hear the sound of the sea.

The beauty of sea-shells never ceases to intrigue us. We make necklaces out of shells, ear-rings, garlands, and use the mother-of-pearl rainbow shimmer that can be found in oyster, mussel and abalone shells, for upmarket jewellery.

When we see shells on the beach we think of them as being discarded by the sea snails they once protected, but recycling is part of nature, as you will see below.

Pearls Closeup
Collecting Seashells

Shells are grown by sea animals like snails and clams that use them for protection against predators and the pounding waves of the sea. Once the sea creature dies, the hardy empty shell is often washed up onto the beach, to the fascination of people over thousands of years. In fact the earliest recognition of a shell being used for mystical purposes, is a small cone shell  that was unearthed in an archeological dig from the grave of a stone-age infant who died some 200 000 years ago at the Border Cave rock shelter high in the Lebombo Mountains of KZN. See more HERE. The shell had been placed on the baby, no doubt to signify the preciousness of the life that had been lost.

Cowrie shells were used for money all around the world for centuries, from as far back as the 1300’s right through to the early 1900’s when coins began to replace the shells. 

Nevertheless, we are still prepared to pay handsomely for huge sea shells that will decorate our homes.

Image by Javel Williams

Recent research, however, has taught us that it is not only humans who value shells. Hermit crabs and other sea creatures do too! And the more shells we collect and take away from the sea shore, the more that crabs have to search for something else to use as a protective home — like plastic bottle-tops and other items that have landed up in the sea as part of our litter.


However, plastic bottle tops and pen tops are just not the same to live in as an empty seashell. For one thing, pieces of plastic don’t blend in and camouflage as shells do... 


An octopus, for instance, is a master of camouflage! 

Image by Karthick Krishnakumar

So on World Aquatic Animal Day, let us admire the shells we find on the seashore, but be sure to leave most of them there where sea creatures like the hermit crab can recycle them into homes of their own.

Typing Together

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