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Episode 1501: Mollusks: More than a Shell

Seashells, with their beautiful shapes and colors, have inspired humans since the dawn of time. Many people enjoy collecting seashells on the beach, and the southwest coast of Florida is a great place to find these natural treasures. 

While shells delight young and old, few know about the equally fascinating animals that create these elaborate skeletons. They belong to the phylum Mollusca, the second largest phylum in the animal kingdom, and include well-known mollusks such as clams and snails, as well as lesser-known creatures like tusk shells and chitons. These animals have surprisingly varied diets and reproductive strategies.

Scientists and shell enthusiasts have treasured and studied seashells for generations, amassing large collections in the process. Now, a new initiative, known as the Eastern Seaboard Project, brings together multiple institutions to make their vast collections easily accessible online. 

And, despite the large collections that already exist, researchers and citizen scientists continue to make new discoveries. More than one new species is named every day. These include tiny micromollusks, as well as otherworldly planktonic creatures that migrate up from the depths each night to feed, where daring blackwater photographers document them in stunning imagery. 


Meet the experts featured in this episode.

Special Thanks:


Looe Key Reef Resort & Dive Center

27340 Overseas Highway 

Ramrod Key, FL 33042




Pura Vida Divers

2513 Beach Court
Riviera Beach, FL 33404




Comfort Inn & Suites 

Jacksonville Orange Park

8001 Parramore Road

Jacksonville, FL 32244




Hampton Inn & Suites |

Fort Myers Beach / Sanibel Gateway

11281 Summerlin Square Blvd

Fort Myers Beach, FL 33931


Image Credits

Changing Seas would like to thank the following individuals and institutions who kindly allowed their footage, images and other media to be used in this production:

Rüdiger Bieler, Ph.D. 




Zoltan Glass/Science & Society Picture Library 

via Getty Images 


Kristen Grace   

John Slapcinsky

Illustrations by Merald Clark

Florida Museum Archives


Linda Ianniello 


Scott Johnson 


José Leal, Ph.D.  

Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum


James Mears 


Newman PR & Associates  


Image 299163

Penn Museum


Doug Perrine


State Archives of Florida 




Amy Tripp 


Research in the Florida Keys NMS 

conducted under Permit FKNMS-2022-031 

Web Extras

Explore Blackwater Photography with Photographer Linda Ianniello
Episode Sneak Peek                                                                                                
Shells with Doc Leal | Slipper Snail      
Shells with Doc Leal | Coquina             
Shells with Doc Leal | Florida Fighting Conch
Shells with Doc Leal | Jingle                         
Shells with Doc Leal | Alphabet Cone             
Blackwater Diving | Palm Beach, Florida
Photographing Tiny, Scientific Specimens 🐚
Conchology & Malacology- What's the Difference?
Can YOU Spot This Mollusk's Subtle Movements?

Funding for this episode of Changing Seas was provided by:

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