Shells from Roatan

Here are some of the shells we found in Roatan in 2006, taken in a small aquarium while the mollusks were still living. I used a Nikon D100 digital camera with a 60mm micro lens and later enhanced the photos (taking out distracting backgrounds and correcting for color) in Photoshop. Underwater photos are courtesy of Linda Nelson.
 

The edge of the coral reef. This is one of the prettiest reefs I have ever seen!

 
 

Deeper in the reef. The variety of coral is astounding.

 

Getting too deep to snorkel. Time to go shelling!

 

We look mostly under dead coral slabs for shells. We put the rock back where we found it and in its original position.

 

Pilsbryspira albomaculata

 

Fenimorea fucata, one of my favorite shells.

 

Dermomurex pauperculus

 

Risomurex deformis. This shell is so brightly colored you wonder how you could miss finding it...

 

until you see it in its habitat of red coralline algae!

 

Trachypollia nodulosa. It's unusual to find one of these with the yellow spots.

 

Favartia species. These are difficult to spot. They are found on the underside of rocks.

 

Murexsul chesleri, a shell named in 2006. I first found this species in 1977, and it is common here!

 

Astraea caelata, a small specimen.

 

Pyramidella dolobrata, found while diving, by fanning the sand. These animals come out at night.

 

Bailya parva, a lovely little shell.

 

Engina turbinella, very common on reefs, but small so hard to photograph.

 

Tegula viridula. I haven't found this shell so far north before - but it's common in Venezuela.

 

Tegula grunneri. Though common throughout the Caribbean, this shell is usually mis- identified because it resembles the larger Tegula fasciata. However, this shell is shinier, always red, and has a double raised spiral line in the columella.

 

Trivia quadripunctata. This 1/4 inch shell is beautiful, with an even more beautiful animal. When alive the shell is usually covered by the mantle, making it difficult to spot on red algae.

 

Cyphoma gibbosum also covers its shell with its mantle, which is spotted with black squares. It stands out like a neon sign on purple sea fans.

 

Luria cinerea. Though most cowries have a spectacular mantle, this one is plain and almost transparent.

 

Chama florida. I doubt many people have collected this shell. It's shy, living on the underside of rocks that have spots of red coralline algae growing on them, making the shell hard to spot. You also have to collect the rock - not always an easy thing to carry! Next to the bivalve (Chama) is a...

 

Triphora decorata. This tiny shell is in a group that grows "backwards" - that is, in a sinistral (left-handed) spiral rather than dextral.

 

Oliva reticularis. These aren't on the reef, but in sandy patches. Look for trails!

 

Cymatium aquatile (used to be called pileare). Note the beautiful spotted animal - each Cymatium species has a unique spot pattern.

 

Cymatium nicobaricum. The orange-mouthed triton also has a beautiful spotted animal.

 

Charonia variegata. Apparently these are common here, because all the vendors had them. I found two nice specimens myself. They also have a beautiful spotted animal.

 

Bursa granularis cubaniana. More beautiful spots.

 

Mitra barbadensis. There were several large specimens of this beautiful shell found.

 

Mitra nodulosa. Another lovely miter, though this specimen will take some cleaning!

 

A Diodora species I haven't yet identified. Limpets live on the underside of rocks. The animals are sometimes surprisingly colorful and active.

 

Diodora minuta.

 

Lucapina sowerbii.

 

Lucapina suffusa. The Lucapinas are called "fleshy limpets" because the animal is too large for the shell.

 

Another view of Lucapina suffusa.

 

Patelloida pustulata. I was surprised by the lovely palps at the edge of this animal's mantle and the beautiful coloring of the body.

 

Another specimen of Patelloida pustulata.

 

What's a club-spined sea urchin doing here? See the boll in the spine? A family of tiny mollusks lives in that boll - a Stilifer species.

 

Coralliophila galea. As its name suggests, this shell is associated with corals, usually lettuce coral or elkhorn coral, on which it feeds. The aperture grows to fit tightly to its "home" - a specific spot on the coral.

 

Arene cruentata. A beautiful little shell, barely 1/4 inch in diameter, and difficult to see amongst that red coralline algae.

 

Latirus trochlearis (or carinifera?) The Honduran shell is very different from the carinifera we find in Florida.

 

Leucozonia leucozonalis. Once called a form of L. nassa, this shell is more common in Honduras. All the Fasciolarids seem to have a bright red animal.

 

Prunum maya, named by Espinosa & Ortea in 1998. Though the animal is spectacular, the shell is a nondescript white.

 

Nitidella nitida. This smooth, shiny dove shell is usually found in groups of four to eight shells or more. They are slippery, though, so you usually miss a few!

 

Bractechlamys antillarum, a small scallop. You can see pinkish “eyes” at the edges of the shell.

 

Caribachlamys ornata, another scallop. Its “eyes” are red. The red spiky stuff on the shell is that coralline algae, which is hard to get off the shell!

 

Lima lima. The more common Lima species has a bright red animal with long tentacles, earning a common name of "Flame Scallop", though it's not a scallop at all. It is one of the few shells non-shelling divers find because of its bright color, but they miss this smaller, more modest species...

 

...along with this one, as yet unidentified.

 

Tellina radiata. On one snorkel, this is the only species I found in the sand, but I found two dozen of them!

 

"Lettuce slug" - a nudibranch, or naked-gilled mollusk, which does not have a shell. Most nudibranchs are beautiful and colorful, warning predators that they taste bad!

 

An Aplesia species - a "sea hare", related to the nudibranchs. They're called "sea hares" because of the rabbit-ear-like protrusions on the head. Some species, though not this one, have an internal shell. They are able to escape predators by producing a cloud of ink and moving away under its cover. They are hermaphroditic - male and female in one - and often fertilize each other when spawning.

 

Cymatium labiosum. I first collected one of these lovely little shells at Roatan - a pair of them, in fact - just out of the water on the side of a rock cliff in 1977.

 

Epidromus testaceus. I dived this specimen up from a wall at 80 feet in 1977.

 

Hastula hastata. These small terebras came from dark volcanic sand at Cayos Cochinos, an archipellago inland of Roatan.

 

Lucapina sowerbii. A delicate shell is covered by a bright orange mantle. The siphon sticks out of the "keyhole" on the back of the shell. These animals cannot withdraw completely into the shell, so they live underneath rocks for safety. This one came from Cayos Cochinos.

 

Elysia tuca. This opisthobranch has a small internal shell. I got it by shaking Caulerpa (the alga it's crawling on) into a pan. It was in shallow water at Cayos Cochinos

 

Conus arangoi. A diver found this rare species at about 40 feet off Guanaja, another of the Bay Islands near Honduras.

 

Turbo cailletii. This specimen came from Utila in the Bay Islands of Honduras, though the first one I collected was from the southern Bahamas.

 

Calliostoma vinosum. Hard (for me) to find, this was collected by a friend at night at Utila.