Discover treasures along our shores

Discover Treasures along our ShoresPhotos by Lindsay Brown

Southern Beaufort County’s riverbanks and beaches are a treasure trove of constantly changing and amazing wildlife and plants.

There’s so much to see and learn, so much to wonder at, so much to discover for explorers of all ages.









Ark clam shell

Ark clam shell

What to look for: These clam shells are very common and can be seen all along the beach.
Fun facts: The clams inside of the ark shell have hemoglobin pigments in them. Usually, these pigments are found only in vertebrates, but they are found in the clam and are responsible for its coloring. This also allows the clams to live in much murkier water because they don’t depend on the water for their oxygen.



What to look for: While this may just look like a pretty shell on the beach, the whelk is actually an animal. There is a snail inside the shell and the whelk is a member of the mollusk family.
Fun facts: The shell is the skeleton of the animal and it grows with the whelk. Whelks also produce egg cases that are about 2 feet long.



What to look for: These long, slender shells like to bunch together in tidal pools and in shallow, warm water. Can you pick out which ones are the auger shells in this photo? There are six shown here.
Fun facts: These shells are named because of their screw-like appearance. However, while the outside of the shell may look pretty, inside is a snail that is cannibalistic. The snail shoots out a venomous barb to stun its prey and eat it (don’t worry, they won’t eat you).



What to look for: These are the most common type of shells. You will usually see long strips of them in the breaking point of the tide.
Fun facts: Although these are the smallest shells found on beaches in the Southeast, they are also the most abundant. There can often be up to 1,500 shells in a single square foot.


Keyhole sand dollar

Keyhole sand dollar

What to look for: It isn’t likely that you’ll see this creature since they like to bury themselves in deep water. But you may be able to feel its rough texture with your toes as you walk along the bottom of the ocean.
Fun facts:
If you pick up a live sand dollar, it will leave your hands yellow and brown from the iodine solution they produce. You will also be able to see its hundreds of tiny feet moving around. These tube feet help the sand dollar move, defend itself and eat. But remember to leave it. Taking a live sand dollar, which is brown and fuzzy, is strictly forbidden. If you see one on the beach that’s bleached white, it’s OK to take it home.

An important reminder about local wildlife and plants:
Please respect all rules and regulations so that these special species can be enjoyed for generations to come.


Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

What to look for: You can usually see these beautiful creatures around low tide.
Fun facts: These birds are about 4 feet tall and bluish-gray. The male and female look the same. Their primary food is small fish, but they’ll also feed on shrimp, crabs and other small animals. Herons locate their food by sight and usually swallow it whole.

Sea gull

What to look for: The Ringed Billed Gull is the most common type of sea bird.
Fun facts: While these birds may spend the summer here, most of them travel all the way to Canada and Niagara Falls to breed.

Wood stork

What to look for: These birds can be spotted at low tide and are known for their bald heads and long beaks and legs.
Fun facts: These endangered birds are quick when it comes to catching their prey. They will leave their beak in the water, wait to feel a fish touch it, and they can snap their beak shut in as little as 25 milliseconds to catch the fish.

Sea gull

Great egret

What to look for: The Great Egret is solid white with a yellow bill and can be seen all throughout the marshes. You may recognize it as the Audubon Society symbol.
Fun Facts: These birds, which are now in abundance, were once endangered. They were killed for their feathers in the 1900s during peak breeding season. Great Egrets also eat their prey whole after spearing the fish with their blade-like bills.




What to look for: These cute little guys lurk in mounds of sand looking for prey.
Fun facts: What’s not so cute? They’re cannibalistic. They prey on clams and othe
snails, including other moon snails. They often drill those little holes you see in shells.



Sea spongeSea sponge

What to look for: These creatures resemblance a kitchen sponge. You may find them washed up on the beach or floating around in the ocean.
Fun facts: While sea sponges are feeding, they also filter the water. To eat, they suck water in through their pores, filter out the nutrients and then eject the clean water through an opening in their body.




Cannonball jellyfishCannonball jellyfish

What to look for: This translucent, mushroom shaped blob can be found washed up on the beach during the summer. It is distinguished by brown markings around the bottom of its body and its muscular appearance.
Fun facts: Instead of stinging tentacles, these jellies release mucus that contains toxins. The mucus will stun their prey and drive away predators.



Acorn barnacleAcorn barnacle

What to look for: Once an acorn barnacle attaches to something, it’s stuck for life. These are seen most commonly on piers, but some species will attach only to specific animals, like whales or fish.
Fun facts: Dentists are studying the acorn barnacle to figure out just how they stay stuck for so long. The brown glue that attaches the barnacle to the hard surfaces can’t be dissolved by acids and alkalis.




Try to guess the names of these crabs based on their descriptions.

Try to guess the names of these crabs based on their descriptions.

A.These guys can be found hiding inside of old snail shells all along the beach. You just have to pick up the shell to find out if it’s actually a this crab or just another empty shell. These crabs don’t have a shell of their own. They simply travel from shell to shell as they grow.

B. These crabs make the holes found in the upper part of the beach, close to the sand dunes. They’re more active at night. If you take a flashlight to the beach at night, you can see them scurrying around. The name stems from their ability to disappear from sight almost instantly.

C. These crabs come to shore at night to lay their eggs. You’ll often find them stranded on the beaches. And despite their long, spiny tails, they won’t bite or sting. They are a living fossil; they haven’t changed in 160 million years.

D. These crustaceans are a yummy treat and are best seen (and caught) three hours before and after low tide. One of these tagged crab once swam 35 miles in just 48 hours. In order for this crab to grow, it must shed its old shell and grow a new one.

(Answers: A: Hermit crab. B: Ghost crab. C: Horseshoe crab. D. Blue crabs)

River life


What to look for: At low tide, large beds of oysters can be seen on riverbanks and in marshes. At high tide, you might notice little bubbles on the surface as oysters “spit.”
Fun facts: Oysters are crucial to their environment. Each oyster filters up to 60 gallons of water a day, keeping the coast clean for many animals.





What to look for: The boats seen here are known as shrimp trawlers and can also be seen on the ocean. They are docked all over the Lowcountry.
Fun Facts: Shrimp are the most valuable and popular seafood in the country. There are three local varieties of shrimp: white, brown and pink.





Carlos Chacon, Coastal Discovery Museum
“Tideland Treasures,” by Todd Ballantine

Article ID: 951
State Published
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Created Wednesday, 29 July 2009 09:51
Modified Friday, 31 July 2009 10:34

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