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Purple Sea Snails a Curiosity on Florida Beaches

Lt. Gio Serrano, of Ft. Lauderdale Ocean Rescue sent me this photo of a purple sea snail found on the beach.

Lt. Gio Serrano, of Ft. Lauderdale Ocean Rescue sent me this photo of a purple sea snail (Janthina) found on the beach. Photo copyright Gio Serrano.

Eleven years of working on Fort Lauderdale Beach and Lt. Gio Serrano of Fort Lauderdale Ocean Rescue has never seen so many purple snails washing up on the beach. One has to wonder if the unusually cold and rainy El Nino winter has had a hand in this mass stranding.

Note that the snail seems to be blowing bubbles. Purple sea snails create a flotation raft out of these mucous bubbles so they can float along on the surface of the ocean, where they feed on and often hitch a ride on man-of-war jellyfish.

According to Dr. Blair Witherington in his book Florida’s Living Beaches, there are four species of purple sea snails that may be found on Florida beaches:

  • Common purple sea snail (Janthina janthina)
  • Dwarf purple sea snail (Janthina globosa)
  • Pale purple sea snails (Janthina pallida)
  • Globe purple sea snails (Janthina prolongata)

Below are some photos of Purple sea snails sent to me from Fort Lauderdale beaches by Marianna Armata of Full Circle Graphic Design, a design and production coordination service.

This is a great photo showing the pale upper part of the purple sea snail's shell, along with the bubble float it secretes. The other object in the photo with the "berries" on it is a piece of Sargassum seaweed. Photo copyright Marianna Armata.

This is a great photo showing the pale upper part of the purple sea snail's shell, along with the bubble float it secretes. The other object in the photo with the "berries" on it is a piece of Sargassum seaweed. Photo copyright Marianna Armata.

Here's a good view of the dark violet under part of the purple sea snail's shell with the bubble-float still attached. Photo copyright Marianna Armata.

Here's a good view of the dark violet under part of the purple sea snail's shell with the bubble-float still attached. Photo copyright Marianna Armata.

This appears to be a bubble-float that has become separated from the Janthina snail that created it.

This appears to be a bubble-float that has become separated from the Janthina snail that created it. Photo copyright Marianna Armata.

I love this photo with the water in motion-blur and the Janthina in focus. Photo copyright Marianna Armata.

I love this photo with the water in motion-blur and the Janthina in focus. Photo copyright Marianna Armata.

I always appreciated it when my web site visitors take the time to send interesting photos like the ones in this blog post. You can see Marianna Armata’s design portfolio here.