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Junonia Shell on Sanibel Island

junonia shells

Sanibel Island has some rare shells. The Junonia shell is definitely one of them. And it is not only rare on Sanibel. The Junonia Shell is one of the rare shells in Florida as well. So let’s take a look and learn a little about these extraordinary species.

Why are Junonia Shells so Rare?

The reason for their rarity is that they live so far away from shore. The water out there is between 100 and 400 feet deep. So once the snail has died, the shell will stay at the bottom of the ocean far out and it is rare that the waves will push them on the beaches of Sanibel and/or Captiva Island. Most likely this happens after very strong storms like a tropical storm or hurricane. Unfortunately,  the few Junonia Shells that arrive on the shore are often damaged.

Where Do Junonia Shells Come From?

The Junonia shells are the houses of the sea snail. They only have one single muscle. This is enough force for them to crawl across the ocean floor, burrow into sand, climb and swim. Their skin is yellow with distinctive black spots. Their size differs between 1 and 4 inches. The snail belongs to the family Voltae, and therefore is a carnivorous snail. Some say they like to live in deep waters between 60 and 120ft of depth. Others say they prefer depth between 100 and over 400 feet. This is one of the many reasons why scientists love to research them. This includes the Shell Museum on Sanibel Island.

How did the Junonia Shell get its Name?

Some believe that the Junonia Shells are named after the Roman Goddess Juno. Juno was the Roman goddess of family, marriage and childbirth. Furthermore, she was the overall protector of the Roman people. Juno was usually depicted in a warrior-like pose with armor and as a strong woman in general. She was married to Jupiter, which made her the queen of all the Roman people. 

Why are Junonia shells spotted?

We can only guess nature’s intention. The main reason is probably to help the sea snails to be invisible to their predators. 

What is the Biggest Junonia Shell ever Found?

The largest recorded shell of Scaphella junonia is 6 inches in length.

Where do the newest Junonia Shell Species Live?

According to the University of California “A new subspecies of Scaphella junonia has been discovered off the Alacranes Reefs, along the northernmost edge of Campeche Bank, Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. The new subspecies, here named Scaphella junonia curryi, differs from the other four known S. junonia subspecies in having the narrowest and most elongated shell, having the strongest and most extensive ribbed sculpture on the spire whorls, and in having a different color pattern composed of very large, almost fused rectangular spots. The new subspecies is confined to the edge of the Campeche Escarpment off the northern Campeche Bank islands and reefs.”

Where to Find Junonia Shells?

So where can you find these beautiful shells? Sanibel Island has two different options.

Junonia Shell on Sanibel Island – Live Junonias

“In February 2018, Museum Marine Biologist Rebecca Mensch set out to collect a live Junonia snail during a four-day research cruise with former Museum Board Member Dr. Gregory Herbert, funded by the Florida Institute of Oceanography and the University of South Florida’s School of Geosciences. She came back with three! Dr. Herbert has graciously loaned them to the Museum for Rebecca’s research.” Live Junonia snails are now on display in the Museum’s new Living Gallery. Because you are not allowed to remove live shells from the Sanibel beach this is a unique opportunity.

Why Does the Shell Museum Study about Junonias?

The local scientists are studying what Junonias eat, how much they eat, and how frequently they feed. The ultimate goal is to better understand how these animals live so that the scientific community and policy makers are better informed about Florida’s conservation needs and priorities.

Junonia Shell on Sanibel Island – Where to Find Them on the Beach?

The unique shell has been found on the beach of West Gulf Drive. For more details please check here. Another person found one towards the East end of the island. Please check here for more details. Finding one of these rare Sanibel shells will get you in the local newspaper. Shell seeker find them especially in the stormier season starting in April and during the hot summer months. Sanibel’s beaches are some of the top beaches for shelling in Florida!

What is a Junonia Shell Worth?

Because Junonia shells are rare, they have a good market. Smaller Junonia shells, measuring three inches or smaller, could sell for $30 to $40. Larger shells, measuring four inches or more, could even go for $80 to $100.

A Word from healthylifestyleflorida.com

Looking for sea shells is a great sport on Sanibel and Captiva Island and a great way to stay fit and healthy. Try searching for Junonia Shells today. You will love what you can be!

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Antje Diana Baumgarten

Antje Diana Baumgarten

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