For many, collecting shells at the sea shore is a vacation tradition. While collectors often appreciate the aesthetics of seashells, they may not be familiar with the science behind sea shells and their various uses.
Shells, or exoskeletons, are made of calcium-carbonate, which is a substance produced by sea animals' fleshy mantles. As the animal grows, so does the size of its shell.
Sea shells come in a variety of textures and colours. Some shells have ridges, while others are smooth and glossy; some are solid-coloured, while others feature spots and other patterns.
Mollusks, or the invertebrate animals that produce shells, are divided into two main categories. Univalves are animals with one shell, for example conchs; bivalves such as clams have two shells.
In addition to providing the animal with shape and rigidity, its shell protects an animal from predators by camouflaging it.
One can find shells anywhere where mollusks live, including the ocean, streams, rivers, mangrove areas and on land.
Different cultures use sea shells for a variety of purposes. While the animal inside the shell often serves as food, uses for empty shells include decorations for the home and jewellery.