Seashells and more seashells

I realise from a previous post that obs of dead seashells are acceptable for iNat
My question here relates to collections of seashells (dead, beachwashed) that I made in the past*. They are all kept separate with locality, and date. I propose to photograph them (dorsal, lateral, ventral and with a scale). I will have to batch-edit to change the date. This will take quite a while so I want to be sure that it is acceptable for iNat.
Thanks, Pete

  • growing up in a landlocked country, means that walking a beach and collecting the flotsam is particularly exciting.

Growing up in a town in the mountains, 8+ hours drive from the ocean also makes it particularly exciting.

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as long as you have the right date and location that they were collected, nothing wrong with it.


Yes, that is acceptable. I’ve posted images of shells from museum collections dating back many decades.

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You mean found by you initially?

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Yes, found by me.

Pete, I do this constantly, as it is usually not practical for me to photograph every shell in-situ as I find it. Often photograph at home later and adjust the date/location.

Have fun!


Oh, I’m asking about museum shells mentioned, your post does sound like it’s perfect for iNat!

Adding shells presents an opportunity to add a few observation fields. it would be fantastic if the beach combing community chose a few fields to populate - this would make it easier for others who wish to use the data and wish to filter out observations of shells found up on the beach at low tide… I would like to recommend using the ‘Evidence Type’ field. ( it is also possible to indicate that the animal is ‘dead’ in the attribute field but the addition of ‘shell’ in the evidence type field will help highlight the fact that the animal may never have been alive at the location where the shell was found. I do like shells…


Shells do wash in from deeper water, especially during big storms, when the waves are large enough to pick shells up from deeper water and carry them in, but contrary to what some people imagine, shells do not travel long distances (like several miles or hundreds of miles) before they end up washing up onto a beach.

So in other words, shells are found more or less where they lived, just not usually right on the sand of the beach, but a little way out in the water right off of that beach.

But that may not be the case when a human brought the shell there from somewhere else, and dropped it, either deliberately or accidentally. That does sometimes happen. On Randall’s Island I find exotic shells washed up that were thrown into the estuary as offerings to La Diosa Del Mar – the sea goddess.


About people’s previous sets of collected shells, I would like to say, try to be absolutely sure that you never could have mixed shells from one batch with shells from another batch. That can easily happen when you are comparing shells from one place with shells from another place, perhaps in order to try to determine whether the identity of the species is the same.

Also, with any individual valves of bivalves you have, it is always a good idea to photograph the interior of the valve as well as the exterior. That is because the details of the hinge line and muscle scars are diagnostic in bivalves.

And, when you start uploading your older seashell obs, please ping me so I can look at them.


Technically speaking, shells are jetsam, not flotsam. Flotsam is floating debris – light stuff like wood or coconuts, whereas shells are heavy enough that they do not float and require being thrown up by the waves (jetsam).


Thanks for your comment. It is probably not clear cut - some shells ARE floating (=flotsam) but I’d agree that most on the beach are not. However, my dictionary definition of jetsam is “discarded material washed ashore, esp that thrown overboard to lighten a ship, etc. [contr of jettison]”. Perhaps we need another term?

Thanks everyone for your comments. I will start to slowly work through my past collections.

I would say that dead shells fall under he definition of “Discarded material” as long as you don’t insist that the material has to be discarded by humans.

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