Types of beach shells

Updated March 20, 2017

Collecting beach shells is a common hobby among ocean lovers. Shells come in many shapes, sizes, and colours. Seashells come from animals that live in the ocean, known as mollusks. Mollusks are invertebrates that do not have an internal skeleton. These invertebrates use the shells as protection. A mollusc lives inside its shell, taking it wherever it goes. When the mollusks dies or grows out of its shell, the shell sinks to the ocean floor and lies vacant until another inhabitant claims it, or it washes up on the beach shore.


The most common type of seashell found on a beach is the cockleshell. These shells come in a variety of sizes and are a common home to clams. The shells are round or heart-shaped and have a ribbed texture. They come in many sizes and colours. Depending on the location of the shell, colours may vary from beige and blue, to purple and pink. Their colour is affected by the natural elements surrounding the shell such as excessive sun exposure and extreme ocean activity.

Conch Shell

Conch shells are normally the homes to snails and hermit crabs. Their spiral shape makes them very distinguishable. Considered a great find, conch shells can become as large as 12-inches and weigh up to five pounds. In some cultures, conch shells are used for ritual or religious activities. Blowing into them reveals a deep, trumpet-like sound.


The cowrie is a round, egg-shaped shell that contains a natural, polished look. They are the protective home to many types of sea creatures, but most commonly snails. They come in many shapes and colours and each contain its own unique patter. These patterns range in colour and style.

Sand Dollar

The sand dollar shell is the hard, external shell of a sand dollar. They are flat and round and have a white appearance. Live sand dollars burrow themselves into the sand to protect themselves from predators. While alive, sand dollars are green, blue, or purple but turn white when they dry out after death.

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Angela M. Wheeland specializes in topics related to taxation, technology, gaming and criminal law. She has contributed to several websites and serves as the lead content editor for a construction-related website. Wheeland holds an Associate of Arts in accounting and criminal justice. She has owned and operated her own income tax-preparation business since 2006.