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Sea Shells - Bivalves

Also known as pelecypods, bivalve shells are mollusks with two valves joined by a hinge. Most of the 20,000 species are marine including clams, mussels, oysters and scallops. About one third of the species live in fresh water. They lack a head and radial teeth. They feed on microscopic plant life aided by their gills. The tow shells (valves) are kept closed by strong muscles. The sexes may be combined in one individual or may be separate. Most lay their eggs directly into the water. Oysters, clams, and scallops are a major source of food.

Sea Shells - Bivalves - Ark Clams
Family: Arcidae
Ark Shells number about 200 in species and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The outer skin of the Ark Shell acts as a camouflage matching the surroundings of its environment. The shells actually look like stones when lying on the bottom of the water. Ark shells are commonly used as bait as well as food throughout the Caribbean.

Sea Shells - Bivalves - Clam Shells
Family: Numerous family groups
Clam shells consist of a wide variety of bi-valve shells in many shapes and sizes. Some are edible and some produce pearls. Most live in shallow waters and the species can be found in either fresh or salt water.

Sea Shells - Bivalves - Cockle Shells
Family: Cardiidae
One of the largest and well known of the bi-valve species. This family numbers several hundred species found all over the world.

Sea Shells - Bivalves - Oyster Shells
Family: Ostreidae
These edible oysters are the most commonly known throughout the world as a popular source of seafood. The shell is porcelaneous and the pearls produced from these edible oysters have little value. Oysters from this family group vary in size and shape.

Sea Shells - Bivalves - Oyster Shells - Winged and Pearled Oyster Shells
Family: Pteriidae
This is a large family of tropical dwelling oysters with a smooth mother of pearl interior. They are usually found attached to rocks and wharfs. Some produce a gem quality pearl.

Sea Shells - Bivalves - Oyster Shells - Thorny Oyster Shells
Family: Spondylidae
Although they look like oysters, thorny oysters are actually more closely related to the scallop shell family. Also known as Chrysanthemum shells, these shells vary greatly in shape, color and spine. There are 2 dozen known species within this family group. Marine growth on the spines offer living thorny oysters camouflage protection from predators.

Sea Shells - Bivalves - Oyster Shells - Jingle Shells
Family: Anomiidae
This is a group of thin and semi-translucent shells that are found attached to rocks, wood and other shells. They are commonly found in shallow waters and mangroves.

Sea Shells - Bivalves - Scallop Shells
Family: Pectinidae
Pectens or Scallops are one of the few bivalve shells that actually swim. This is accomplished by rapidly opening & closing their valves, sending the shell backward. Most species live in tropical waters, but several live in polar waters. Each half or valve of a scallop features a different coloring/design. The muscle is the part consumed by humans.
Interesting Facts: Scallop shells have been featured in art, architecture, and religion throughout history. The scallop gained popularity with the ancient mythology of Aphrodite (Greek) or Venus (Roman), who rose in birth from a scallop shell. This myth was immortalized by Botticelli’s famous 15th-Century painting “The Birth of Venus.” Ancient Greeks used a stylized scallop as a shoulder clasp for their tunics. Scallops were added to the coat of arms of many British families as a reference to Catholic ancestors who had participated in the Crusades. In today’s world the scallop is a popular design in architecture and is well known as the Shell Gasoline logo. If you hear a snapping sound when you’re in the water, chances are it is the sound of the valves hitting together as it opens and shuts its shell.