Volutidae Family Volutes, Balers, and Melon Shells
What can we say about this huge family of approximately 200 species except that it is composed of some of the most expensive, unique, and beautiful shells in the world. For the most part they are deep water shells that like to remain buried in the sand and come out at night to feed. They feed on other shell animals and creatures of the sea. Volutes acquire their name from the Latin word Voluta which means "scroll". When you look at the end or aperture of the shell you will see a scroll. The locations or distributions of Volutes is limited as a result of their breeding habits. They do not produce free swimming larvae that float at will throughout the oceans as with many shells. The male impregnates the female by direct contact. The mother then lays a mass of eggs and the young emerge from an egg You will find them concentrated in a central location such as the great barrier reefs of Australia and the South Seas. Sometimes it hard to identify which shells are members of the Volute family due to the many physical and color variations in the shell. They range in colors from drab brown to vibrant colors and designs. Not only is the animal inside the shell edible but the shell itself is the choice of many collectors. This has resulted in the over harvesting of the shell and in many cases resulted in controls being placed in the shell.
Two members of the Volute Family that I am especially fond of are the Bailers or Melon Shells and the Noble Volutes. The bailers grow to be big and in many ways do not resemble other volutes with the exception of the scroll on the ends. They acquired the name Bailer because the natives, even to this day, use them to bail water from their boats. I guess the reason I enjoy the Bailers is because they remind me of my early childhood days on the Island when we used shells for many purposes. When we went out into the sound to tend nets we always had a large conch whelk shell available to bail water out of our boats. I also recall sipping water out of a large Whelk Shell that we used as a water dipper. Not having a lot of flower pots available I learned early on that a big Whelk shell was great holder for plants. When I see a big melon or bailer shell I can imagine the Australian Aborigines using them not only for bailing out their boats, but as bowls and cooking utensils. When you are isolated from the rest of the world you learn to use what nature provides you. Look at these huge bailers below and imagine what you could use them for if you were marooned on a deserted island.
Pictures of a row of Bailers or Melon Shells beginning with the hand.
Ask yourself How would I use these huge shells if I were marooned on an Island?
My second favorite member of this family of shells is the Noble Volute. When you hold a Noble Volute in you hand you see Nature at its best. Nothing has been done to the shell. It was not necessary to clean it as you have to do with the majority of shells to reveal their true beauty. The animal that lives in the shell stays buried most of the time in the sand except to come out to feed.. No two shells have identical patterns which portrays all the people I meet who visit my shop. No two are alike an each one is unique and displays a natural beauty all of its own. The animal who lives inside the shell is as beautiful as the shell. It has vibrant orange and black markings. Because the animal is a food source the shell is becoming scarce due to the destruction of its habitat and over harvesting.