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The Old Gray House:  Dried Sea Life



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The Old Gray House
Shell Products
Dried and Preserved Sea Life


The Old Gray House
Shell Products

  1. Large Decorative Shells
  2. Condiae Family
  3. Cowrie Family
  4. Murex Family
  5. Spondylus Family
  6. Turbinidae Family
  7. Volutidae Family
  8. Argonautidae Family
  9. Nautilidae Family
  10. Chamidae Family
  11. Dried Sea Life Family
  12. Strombidae Family
  13. Trochidae Family
  14. Myacidae Family
  15. Haliotidae Family
  16. Tunnidae Family
  17. Specimen Family
  18. Olividae Family
  19. Cassidae Family
  20. Pleurotomariidae Family
  21. Dentaliidae Family
  22. Angariinae Family
  23. Xenophoridae Family
  24. Neritidae Family


Myacidae Family
  Dried and Preserved Sea Life

 




Starfish

Starfish are widely used in crafts or in decorating. They are fascinating creatures that captivate the imagination of all who visit the ocean. Often on Hatteras a Island we find our beaches littered with starfish after storms. When you look closely at this creature of the sea that lives three to five years you begin to realize that it possesses another miracle of nature that mankind has not yet unraveled. This little creature has the God given power to regenerate its body after it has been damaged. Normally the ones we find have five fingers, but there are others species that have 30 or 40 arms. Should one of their fingers get damaged or cut off it can grow back. Many times we find starfish on our beaches that are in the process of growing a finger. Some can even produce a new starfish from a single piece. Think how wonderful it would be if we had the ability to do the same thing. Who knows someday someone might unlock this great secret that would bring joy to millions of people who have lost limbs.

When you turn a dried starfish over you will notice that it is very rough. The roughness is composed of little suction cups that aid it in acquiring its food.

Crown Of Thorns on Coral
Astex Starfish.

Notice the roughness on the underside of its many fingers.
This helps them grip a clam

They love to make a meal of such things as clams, oysters, and cockles. You would not think that this delicate animal would have the strength to pry open a clam, but they do. They wrap themselves around the mussel shell they have chosen for dinner and pry them open enough to push their stomach inside and digest the tender meat. Many an oyster bed has been destroyed over the years by starfish.

Hatteras Island Starfish
Hatteras Island Starfish Gripping a Cockle Shell

There is one starfish that loves to dine on coral polyps. It is so destructive to the coral reefs throughout the Pacific that our government in 1970 gave a grant of $4,500,000.00 to The Pacific Islands to help control it. See the citation from the Congressional Record.

When you look at the Crown of Thorns Starfish you can see why it was so named.

Crown of Thorns Starfish Acanthaster planci

Picture of Two Views.

Crown Of Thorns on Coral Crown Of Thorns on Coral

Top View

Back view

The Crown of Thorns grows to approximately 12 inches and can have as many as 12 to 20 arms. When you look at the front view you can see where it got the name Crown of Thorns. The thorns are very sharp and are like a snake in that they possess venom that can inflict a troublesome wound. Not only has it been responsible for the destruction of coral reefs but limiting number of Triton Trumpet Shells that are available.

As with everything in the ocean even the dreaded Crown of Thorn Starfish has one enemy that likes to eat it. The Triton Trumpet (Charonia tritonis) is the natural enemy of the Crown of Thorns.

Due to the Triton Trumpets importance in helping to keep down the spread of the Crown of Thorns it is protected in many areas from being collected or even being harvested for food.

It is important that the coral reefs be protected for they are the forest of the oceans. It is in these ocean forests just in our land forest that fish and other sea life spawn. Once the coral beds are destroyed much of the life in the ocean will soon disappear. It is because of this that at the Old Gray House we will no longer sell any coral. To continue to sell coral will only encourage others to destroy the coral beds to make a profit. We have no problem with selling empty shells that are used as a food-source for people. Coral is not viewed as food source.

Crown Of Thorns on Coral

Triton Trumpet eats Crown of Thorns Starfish

 

When you visit The Old Gray House Shell Shop you will see this display that shows the relationship between these three creatures of the sea.

Sand Dollars
Irregular Echinoids


Sand Dollars

Sand Dollars and Heart Urchins are classified as Irregular Sea Urchins. When viewed from the bottom they are flat and the anus is shifted from the center rather than in the center of the top surface as found in the Regular Urchin Family.

Of all the sea life that I have dealt with on Hatteras Island there is none as fascinating as the little insignificant urchin called the Sand Dollar. I am not the only one that shares this interest in this critter of the sea. Many visitors to the Old Gray House seem to love the sand dollar. I am not sure why. When you look at the structure of the sand dollar not only is it fragile but in its original setting it is not very attractive.

When they first started gift shops on Hatteras Island members of my family dug sand dollars out of the mud flats to sell to the gift shops. One of their favorite places to search for sand dollars was at the upper end of Ocracoke Island on the sound side. The ones they dug were greenish looking and covered with tiny cilia that looked like small fuzz. After getting a couple of buckets full they took them home and cleaned them by using bleach that removed the greenish slimy look. Once bleached they turned white and they were spread out to let the sun dry and bleach them out even whiter. Nobody wanted them until they had been cleansed and transformed into a thing of beauty. It is such a shame that our world is caught up in not seeing the beauty of things in their natural state.

You will find in most shell shop different kind of Sand Dollars ranging in size from less than a dime to that of a small saucer. Crafters love to use them in producing ornaments and jewelry.

What is it that makes this tiny little object so desirable to people. It definitely is not its original state, so it has to be something else. Could it be that the sand dollar represents what a person can be changed into? In religions much is said about transformation. They speak of laying aside the old body and being born again to receive a new body.

I guess you could say that when a Sand dollar is cleansed from all the greenish slim that is on it from having been exposed to the water that it is a born again creature sporting a new pure white body.

I think I found the secret to what it is about the Sand dollar that has captured people imagination in the attic of my parents home when I was cleaning it out. In a little box placed there by my mother was a sand dollar with a poem. As I read it I became aware why people find the Sand Dollar so alluring. It is not the creature that lives in the sand dollar it is the Legend of the Sand Dollar that has caused all the interest in the skeleton of this sea urchin.

Often are the times we have people come in our shop who have found a Sand dollar on the beach asking if we have a copy of the Legend of the Sand Dollar. The ones that do this are not interested in buying a Sand Dollar for .59 cents with the Legend they want the Legend free of charge. Below I am sharing with you my Motherís treasure just like I found it, with the exception of adding the actual sand dollars to match the content of the poem. When you read the poem of the Legend by some unknown author you can see that it is representative of an event in history that changed the entire world. It is doubtful that the person who wrote this poem realized that they elevated the Sand Dollar to such a lofty position in the sea world.

if you would like to read The Sand Dollar Legend

Regular Sea Urchin or Echinoid Family


Regular Sea Urchin or Echinoid Family
Regular Sea Urchin or Echinoid Family

Regular Urchins or Echinoids are round with a mouth located in the middle when viewed from the bottom with the anus in the center on the top surface.

Few people who visit shell shops fully understand what a sea urchin looks like. What they see in shops is the test or case of the urchin after the spines fall off and the animal inside is removed. Most shops hesitate to stock many forms of the 700 to 800 different varieties of urchins because they are so fragile. After they are properly cleaned the urchin case as well as the urchin spines are a things of beauty and prized by collectors and crafters. Crafters fashion urchins spines into Christmas ornaments and wind chimes, and jewelry. When you look at a sea urchin in its original state you can understand why the smaller variety is often called pin cushions of the sea and the larger ones are referred to as pencil urchins. Even though Sea Urchins are fragile, every collector needs to have a complete one in their collection as the ones pictured below.

Regular Sea Urchin or Echinoid Family
Large Urchins or Pencil Urchins

Urchin spines have many important functions. They assist the animal in scaring off enemies. When threatened the animal will wave the spines violently back and forth or bury themselves with the aid of the spines. Spines are also used in movement and to direct food to the mouth which is located on the underside. Some urchins have spines that are venomous.

Picture of two views.

Stone Club Sea Urchin Stone Club Sea Urchin

Stone Club Sea Urchin

Bottom View of Regular Sea Urchin showing mouth



Sponges Porfera (pore bearers) Family


Sponges are primitive animals that are found in oceans throughout the world. In tropical waters some live to be 200 years old and grow between 5 and 6 feet in diameter.  They are stationary and they depend on a constant flow of water through their bodies in order to obtain food,  and oxygen and to help remove waste products. Over the years sponges have been used by man in many different ways. In my garden I have three large sponges that I use as flower pots. I have also used them to help provide moisture to hermit crabs and in stenciling to paint walls.

There is one sponge that every lover of the ocean should have in their collection. It is the glass sponge or venus flower basket. This deep water sponge is involved in one of the most interesting stories to come out of the ocean,.



Fish, Crab, Shark, Jaws, Alligator Heads


Preserved fish, shark jaws make great items to display. Many people use our small blow fish as ornaments to hang on their Christmas trees to remind them of their vacations at the beach. I am also including in this grouping a few other types of preserved sea life that we have on hand.


Starfish


Shark
Mud Star Natural
Larger image




Mud Star Bleached
Larger image




Sugar Star
Larger image

Shark
Blue Finger
Larger image


small brown
Larger image


Mini Philippine
Larger image



Sand Dollars
Irregular Echinoids


Shark
Sea Bisket
Larger image




Arrowheads
Larger image




Round
Larger image

Shark
Sea Cookie
Larger image



Regular Sea Urchin or Echinoid Family


Shark
Alphonso
Larger image




Pink
Larger image




Sputnik
Larger image

Shark
Purple
Larger image


Green
Larger image


English
Larger image

Shark
Pencil Urchin Spine
Larger image



Sponges Porfera (pore bearers) Family


Shark
Glass Sponge
Larger image




Sea Sponge
Larger image





Fish, Crab, Shark, Jaws, Alligator Heads


Shark
Trigger Fish
Larger image




Ballon Fish
Larger image




Porcupine Fish
Larger image

Shark
Blowfish In Hat
Larger image


Sea Horse
Larger image


Shark In A Bottle
Larger image

Shark
Sea Dragon
Larger image


Shark Jaws
Larger image





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