Janthina janthina

During a morning walk at Cardiff State Beach, I noticed tiny specks of purple-violet-blue in the sand close to the waterline. Upon close inspection, I found they’re actually tiny snail shells – and with this information (“purple tiny snail shell”) it was easy to identify them as Janthina janthina, the Common purple snail, Common violet snail, Violet sea-snail*.

Here a close-up of a single one of them. You can see just how tiny it is when you look at the sand. I made this photo with a 35mm prime lens (it allows to focus pretty close) and then cropped a lot – this final image has about 6 megapixels, out of a 36 megapixel original. (and just by the way – ten years ago, six megapixels was all I had, with my first DSLR, a Nikon D70.)

A single Janthina janthina (Common purple or violet snail) -- South Cardiff State Beach, Solana Beach, California
A single Janthina janthina (Common purple or violet snail) at South Cardiff State Beach, Solana Beach, California. March 2013. Isn’t that single star-shaped reflection of the sunlight in a single grain of sand a nice touch? :-)

Here’s another photo, showing the tiny shells more in context. You can see that the smallest ones are hardly larger than a couple grains of sand:

Janthina janthina (Common purple or violet snail) at South Cardiff State Beach, Solana Beach, California
Janthina janthina (Common purple or violet snail) at South Cardiff State Beach, Solana Beach, California. March 2016.

According to Wikipedia they can get up to 40mm in size, and actually float in the ocean with a chitin bubble raft. Considering that their normal distribution is in warm and temperate tropical waters, I don’t think we’ll get to see them at that size here in Southern California.

Last not least, a bonus photo. I found this delicate arrangement of a white shell and kelp debris with the few bird prints going across on the otherwise clean and untouched sand interesting. Just as I knelt down to try and make a photo, good Toni did what she does best: photobomb. In this case, she added a nice and whimsical touch to a photo that I would probably have deleted otherwise, anyway – her paw prints. :-)

Modern Beach Art -- Toni's paw prints, shell and kelp debris at South Cardiff State Beach, Solana Beach, California. March 2016.
Modern Beach Art — Toni’s paw prints, shell and kelp debris at South Cardiff State Beach, Solana Beach, California. March 2016.

*) my ever-inquisitive friend Michael Russell asked me what they were before I had identified them, so I entered “purple shell” into Google Translate and chose “Latin” as the target translation. I then told him it was “Concharum purpura” – that was two months ago and I’m still giggling because he fell for it, momentarily. ;-)

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