The New Jersey Shore is home to a number of different mollusks, creatures which produce seashells to protect themselves. These shells often wash up on the shore, particularly in late winter and early spring, when the weather is rough. Seashells are best found along the tide line, and are often mixed in with flotsam, driftwood, seaweed and other materials.
Several types of clams inhabit the waters near New Jersey, including the hard-shell clam, soft-shell clam, surf clam and common razor clam. These bivalves produce two hard shells, usually with striations. The two halves of the shell are normally held together by a ligament, but on older shells, this ligament may have decayed, leaving two separate halves. Razor clams have unusually long, narrow shells, with sharp edges. Handle these shells with care to avoid a cut.
Eastern Mud Nassa
This creature is also called the Eastern mud snail and has a chalky white shell covered in a very dark brown substance called a periostracum. This shell is found from Canada as far south as northern Florida, and has rounded whorls with flattened beads or spiral ridges. Some areas of New Jersey produce an unusual white-banded form. Most Eastern mud nassa shells found on the beach are heavily eroded, particularly around the spiral.
New Jersey is also home to the channeled and knobbed whelks. According to Monmouth County Parks, the knobbed whelk was originally so common it was picked as the state shell. However, today this shell is much rarer. Knobbed whelks produce a shell with low knobs and a cream to brick red opening. The young shells are often streaked with brownish-purple coloration. Channeled whelks are larger, and as their name suggests, have deep channels on their shells. They are often found in sand.
In addition to the mud snails, New Jersey is also home to several other types of snail. These include the moon snail and slipper shell. According to "Seashells of North America," moon snails are fairly common and are often found in shallow water in the northeast states. The most common type is gray to brown and relatively small. Slipper shells are also quite common and have spread as far as Europe and the U.S. Pacific coast.
- “Seashells of North America: A Guide to Field Identification;” R. Tucker Abbot, Herbert S. Zim, George F. Sandstrom; 2001
- Monmouth County Parks: Seashells of Monmouth County
G.D. Palmer is a freelance writer and illustrator living in Milwaukee, Wis. She has been producing print and Web content for various organizations since 1998 and has been freelancing full-time since 2007. Palmer holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in writing and studio art from Beloit College in Beloit, Wis.