The barrier islands of North Carolina draw shell collectors from all over the country, and the Shackleford Banks in Cape Lookout National Seashore provided a surprising illustration of why.
A large shell the size of a fist was discovered lying on top of the sand, the park wrote on Facebook on July 9.
This was entirely unexpected since it was on the beach along the sound. The shell was heavy when picked up, leading one to believe that it was packed with sand. No, there was no sand when the shell was turned over. The snail was still alive and “at home” in its shell.
It was a huge tun, and according to experts, their shells can get as big as 8 inches. The occupant appeared to be pale, squishy, and too large to fit completely inside the shell in a photo that the park shared.
When the shell was turned over, the creature inside looked like this.
The park stated, “Tun shells are not frequently discovered on our beaches, so discovering an empty shell would have been a great find, but discovering a living one was outstanding!
According to experts, seashells typically wash up on shore after their inhabitants die and are consumed by other marine life.
How this one managed to survive on dry land has not been the subject of any theories. The park stated that giant tuns “are carnivores with sea cucumbers as their primary food source, but they will also take sea urchins, sea stars, and occasionally bivalves and crustaceans.”
According to experts, the species prefers coral reefs, bays, and coves “at a depth range of 5-80 meters” and thrives in warm tropical and subtropical waters.
The live tun and its shell were reportedly released “off the end of the dock on the sound side of Shackleford Banks,” according to park officials. Only a private boat or ferry can take visitors to the Shackleford Banks, the southernmost island at Cape Lookout National Seashore.
As of July 11, the park’s Facebook post had received over 2,400 reactions and comments, with some pointing out that it demonstrated the need for collectors to “always check your shells before taking them home.”