Do you have an idea for a future beach walk? After reading, I invite you to see the Topics List page to see what’s ahead. Use the Submit Topic Ideas page to send me your ideas.
Click the video above for 2 minutes of background waves while reading.
I like walking on the beach. It is good for the body, mind, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.
The sands display a myriad of shells. Different shapes, sizes, colors, and patterns. Although they now lay idle on the sand, each was once a home for something alive – a clam, oyster, scallop, whelk, or other Molluscan relatives. Home for a comparatively simple life – a life born to eat so it grows, survives, reproduces, and then dies. A life aiming at perpetuating the species so that species can continue to fulfill its niche in nature.
A life with a collection point of nerves serving as its neurological center – but not a center of emotions, intellect, problem-solving, and complex communication. Just a very simple brain – one geared for operating body functions, movements, sensing, and responding. Sensing the presence of food or predators, the current’s direction, the water’s temperature, and more. Sensing to cause a reaction.
The numerous shells I see tell only a fraction of the story of what life in the water must be. All those shells contained a life – a life starting as a simple cell floating free in the water. A life that developed into a free-swimming larva or served as food for something else. A life that continued to develop into a young shelled organism or food for other organisms. A life finally developing into an adult that can reproduce, yet also be a food source for other life.
No wonder adults release so many eggs – besides, not all will get fertilized. Not all will survive the free-floating stage or as free-swimming larvae. Not all will develop into reproductive adults. Not all will live a full adult life.
Most of the shells on the beach are from bivalves – those mollusks with two shells. The lucky shellers will find a univalve shell.
The bivalves use a siphon to draw in water to indiscriminately filter out food – plankton, algae, bits of seaweed, decomposed particles, and other particles suspended in the water. Yum. They aren’t picky eaters.
Because they prefer feeding during the high tide that replenishes their food supply, ever hear the phrase being happy as a clam at high tide?
I switch gears to think of them as our food – clams, oysters, scallops, and mussels – as stews and chowders – or steamed, grilled, broiled, or fried. To some, simply raw oysters – down the hatch!
With no arms or face, bivalves use a simple muscular foot to bury themselves for protection. I haven’t seen them here, but on other beaches I’ve seen small clams burying themselves as each wave recedes. Ever hear of people digging for clams?
Another means of protection is a strong muscle to keep the shells closed together. Ever hear clam up? However, starfish can pry them apart. So can a seagull with its beak. Even shell-less mollusks as octopi and squids can get the shells apart to eat their cousins.
Oysters are also famous for pearls – but most of the two-shelled mollusks can make a pearl – but not as luxurious. The pearl, the precious gem from the sea, made the same way as making the shell – but caused by a small irritant as a grain of sand. An irritant that can become a smooth, layered, perfectly round, glistening gift of love to someone precious.
That’s the life of a mollusk – a clam, oyster, scallop, quahog, whelk, conch, and others. Compared to ours, a simple life, but an ecologically important one. Each fulfilling a niche in the intricate web of life on our planet.
This is what I ponder as I see the shells on the beaches that I walk. After all, I like walking on the beach because it is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.
See what other bloggers have posted about mollusks
- Creativity and a shell (photos and text)
- The Pearl (poem)
- Meaning of, “The world is your oyster.” (essay)
- A relationship between a pearl and sleep (essay)
- Chowder (poem)
Next walk: Roars – Thursday 3rd December @ 1 AM (Eastern US)
Follow Beach Walk Reflections
- Facebook (BeachWalk Reflections)
- Instagram (BeachWalk Reflections)
- Twitter (@ReflectionsWalk)
- WordPress (Follow or Subscribe)