Steve's Herpetological Blog

An insight into the life of Steve, his research and the many books he reads


#StevesLibrary: Shell Life on the Seashore

I ended 2020 by finishing Shell Life on the Seashore by Philip Street. I admit that this isn’t the most traditional end to a year but despite everything that went on during those painful 12 months, it was the 25th popular science book I managed to finish. I would have liked this to have been a little higher but some days your motivation isn’t there, which I’m sure a lot can sympathise with after the year we had! Back to the book, it was a really enjoyable read and I think the reason why is that most of the organisms spoken about are familiar to myself from my childhood of scouring the beaches of Essex (where I grew up) and Norfolk (where we tended to holiday). I can remember the first time I found a razor clam or a tusk shell as I’d spent so long looking for them in the Thames Estuary (without success), that the image of them was engrained in my brain.

The one thing that this book highlights in my mind is that shells are made my living creatures. When beachcombing, most people don’t consider this. They just see the pretty shells and take the most attractive ones home to adorn their living rooms or bathrooms. However, each shell is patterned or shaped different for a different purpose and Street is very effective at describing why this is. The language he uses and the analogies, are all very accessible. Thankfully, despite the fact I’m not a marine biologist I have a vast knowledge of our coastal wildlife because I was constantly poking it whilst growing up and going home to read about it. However, my knowledge is mot strong around crustaceans and other marine animals that are mobile. We often see marine bivalves and gastropods as sessile, in most cases they are not and Street points this out well.

Another aspect of the text that stands out, is the addition of recent research that highlights our effects on various species or their usefulness in solving environmental problems. Like you, I’m unable to grow a shell but after reading Shell Life on the Seashore, my appreciation for these animals is at an all-time high. The final aspect I loved is that it helped to reignite some knowledge buried deep in my head from my A-Level Geology days, a large portion of the fossils we studied were marine gastropods or bivalves and it was great to unlock the door to that knowledge again. I’d certainly recommend this to anyone who want’s to connect more with the ocean, especially the lesser appreciated species.

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