How to Identify Different Seashells

By eHow Hobbies, Games & Toys Editor

The allure of seashell collecting is due, in large part, to the tremendously vast array of their different colors and shapes. There are several hundred varieties of shells found all over the world. In just one visit to the beach, you may see cockles, clams, conchs and live mollusks, to name a few. Knowing some basic tips will help you to identify the shells you discover.

Learn about mollusks, the living creatures beneath those hard, shield-like shells. Mollusks can be found in salt and fresh water or on land (also known as a snail). Over centuries of evolution, different mollusks have developed shells that precisely accommodate their life cycles, eating habits and size.

Explore other families such as the echinoidea (or sand dollar). Although very beautiful when a dead shell, while alive a sand dollar moves via small spines on its body that look hairy.

Visit the Top Seashells website to study the many varieties of seashells (see Resources below). Conus and calliotectum are the typical seashells you see at the beach, which you can find at this website. Click on the "Identification" tab to get a breakdown of information about shells. You'll be able to get the name and select "identify" to find out where the seashell is normally found.

Identify other popular shells. The conch has a distinctive outer lip with a rounded notch near the lower end. Cockles possess radial ribs, ridges and color bands. Shells of a pearly, iridescent sheen are in the clam family, such as a red lasaea.

Obtain the "National Audubon Society Field Guide to Shells" from Amazon to see photos of hundreds of shells classified by color and size (see Resources below). It is a small guide good for taking to the beach.

Know about different shapes to identify shells. A cerith has a pointy top, while a scallop shell has a fan-like shape. Helmet shells are typically triangular and short.