Category Archives: Cayo Costa

Cayo Costa

Seashell News: Sand Dollars, Shelling, Cayo Costa

SeaShell News, 4-23-15, Sand Dollars, Shelling, Cayo Costa.
SeaShell News, 4-23-15, Sand Dollars, Shelling, Cayo Costa.

SeaShell News, 4-23-15, Sand Dollars, Shelling Cayo Costa.

Cayo Costa State Park is a Florida State Park on Cayo Costa (formerly known as La Costa Island), which is directly south of Boca Grande (Gasparilla Island), 12 miles (19 km) west of Cape Coral and just north of North Captiva Island. The park is accessible only by charter boat (with or without captain), private boat, ferry or helicopter.

Cayo Costa Island is one of a chain of barrier islands that shelter Charlotte Harbor and Pine Island Sound. The park contains nine miles (14 km) of soft white sandy beaches and 2,506 acres (10 km2) of pine forests, oak-palmhammocks, and mangrove swamps.

There is a variety of wildlife that can be seen at the park.

Among the most looked-for animals found in Cayo Costa State Park are the sea turtles. There are four species found on the island, the loggerhead (Caretta caretta), hawksbill (Eremochelys imbriata), green (Chelonia mydas), and Kemp’s ridley (Lepidochelys kempii). Cayo Costa has many volunteers who check the entire nine mile beach each morning during sea turtle nesting season to find new nests and document them which is during the months of March through October in Southwest Florida. The loggerhead turtle is found far more than the others, and the green turtle is a distant second. The loggerhead turtle and green turtle’s eggs have the most diverse niches awhile hawksbill and Kemp’s ridley do not. Their niches rely on climate and weather which allow the eggs to survive on land and eventually hatch.[1]

Another species found on the island is the common raccoon (Procyon lotor). These animals pose a big problem during the sea turtle nesting season due to the fact that they are the most common species of predation on the eggs. Others types of predation on the eggs include: high tide, foxes, ants, ghost crabs, and looting humans.[2]

The West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus) is also found coming up to the island beaches. This is considered an endangered animal, but the population is currently growing.[3] They can be seen from the beach or near the canals and docks of the island. The West Indian manatee is found in Florida and Puerto Rico. Although they are part of the same species, there is genetic diversity and allele frequency between the two populations.[3]

The bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncates) can also be seen jumping, swimming, and playing along the all nine miles of beaches on the island.[4] Each dolphin has its own personal whistle just like any human would have a distinct voice. Dolphins are able to recognize these sounds and communicate through them. Scientists are able to measure these sounds and put them with the individual dolphin that made them.[4]

The snowy egret (Egretta thula) can be found on the island.[5] They usually stay near the beaches. They are a small white heron with long, slender black legs and yellow feet. Both sexes of the snowy egret have the same features even during the breeding season.[5]

The southern bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) can be found flying about the island or sitting up on the high trees.[6] This is another threatened species. The eagles eat a variety of animals, but prefer fish. They scavenge and steal food when they are able to, and the eagle hunts for live prey only as a last resort.[6]

The mother-in-law’s tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata) is found on the island. This plant is most commonly seen as a house plant, but this invasive species came from one of the houses on the island and has spread all over. Staff is currently trying to rid the island of this invasive plant.

The resurrection fern (Pleopeltis polypodioides) is found growing on trees throughout Cayo Costa. It is an epiphyte that if it is dehydrated, will turn brown and curl up its leaves looking dead. When the plant receives water or rain, the plant will “come back to life” and reappear green and alive.[7]

Seagrape (Coccoloba uvifera) is found at Cayo Costa. The fruit comes about in the summer time during the wet season of southwest Florida. It starts out at a bright green grape then ripens to a purplish color. The fruit mainly consists of a large seed with little flesh. It is well known of Florida natives to make jellies or wines from the grapes. This plant is native to South Florida and the Caribbean.[8] This plant can grow up to fifty feet tall, and is usually close to the ocean because they are one of the few salt tolerant plants.[8]

Source:  Cayo Costa.

Seashell News: Top Shell, Shelling, Cayo Costa

SeaShell News, 4-5-15, Top Shell, Cittarium pica (magpie snail) (San Salvador Island, Bahamas) 4 by James St. John.
SeaShell News, 4-5-15, Top Shell, Cittarium pica (magpie snail) (San Salvador Island, Bahamas) 4 by James St. John.

SeaShell News, 4-5-15, Top Shell, Shelling, Cayo Costa Island.

“Cittarium pica, common name the West Indian top shell or magpie shell, is a species of large edible sea snail, a marinegastropod mollusk in the family Tegulidae. This species has a large black and white shell.

SeaShell News, 4-5-15, Hermit Crab on Half Moon Caye in Belize Coenobita clypeatus in a shell of Cittarium pica by Jerry Kirkhart.
SeaShell News, 4-5-15, Hermit Crab on Half Moon Caye in Belize Coenobita clypeatus in a shell of Cittarium pica
by Jerry Kirkhart.

This snail is known as “wilks” (or sometimes as “whelks”) in the English-speaking Caribbean islands of the West Indies, where this is a popular food item. The word “wilks” is used as a singular form as well as a plural. This species is however not at all closely related to the species that are known as whelks in the U.S. and in Europe. In some Spanish-speaking parts of the Caribbean, when used as a food source Cittarium pica is known as bulgao, or simply as caracoles (snails, in Spanish). In Venezuela it is called quigua;[3] in Cuba it is called cigua.

Cittarium pica is considered the third most economically important invertebrate species in the Caribbean, after the spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) and the queen conch (Eustrombus gigas). It has gone locally extinct in some habitats due tooverfishing and overexploitation.[4][5][6]

The shell of this species can be up to 137 mm in maximum dimension.[7][9] It is very thick and heavy, having an outline that is between trochiform and turbiniform in shape, with rounded shoulders[5] and a somewhat low conical form.[7]

The spire is conoidal. It contains about six convex whorls. The large body whorl is depressed-globose. The outer lip is simple. The lip is edged inside by black, or black and white. The columella is arcuate, produced above in a heavy porcellanous callous deposit, half-surrounding the umbilicus and deeply notched in the middle.

The shell of Cittarium pica presents a rather wide umbilicus, which is deep[5] and devoid of sculpture,[7] but spirally bicostate inside. The semicircular, oblique aperture is distinguishably nacreous inside[5][7] as is the case in other Trochoidea, and is circular. The parietal callus is glossy and delicate, and has a node that projects towards the umbilicus.[7] Juvenile individuals possess shells ornamented by spiral lines and strong cords, in contrast to the nearly smooth, homogeneous surface ofmature specimens.[7]

The lusterless color pattern is rather distinct, overall white with black zigzag flammules on each whorl. Those spots have a tendency to become axial lines in older, larger individuals.[7] The upper surface is often entirely black. The aperture is commonly white, with an inner iridescence because of the nacre.

Young shells, or well-preserved adults, have the spire whorls sculptured by oblique folds, cut by a few spiral sulci. The periphery and the base in the half-grown shells are spirally lirate.[10]

On some old, empty shells of large individuals, the black colored parts become slightly higher in relief, compared to the white areas surrounding it. This unusual morphology may be due to the action of blue-green algae, such as Plectonema terebrans, which continuously erode the surface of the white parts of the shell.[7]

This species occurs rarely in the Florida Keys, and in the Caribbean coast of Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia andVenezuela. It also occurs in the Bahamas, Cuba, the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and theLesser Antilles as far south as Trinidad and Tobago. The species has been reintroduced to Bermuda.[2]

Featured image by James St. John.

Source:  Top Shell.

SeaShell News: Atlantic Distorsio, Shelling, Cayo Costa

SeaShell News, 3-18-15, Atlantic Distorsio, “Distorsio clathrata (Lamarck, 1816) 2013 000” by Veronidae – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
SeaShell News, 3-18-15, Atlantic Distorsio, “Distorsio clathrata (Lamarck, 1816) 2013 000” by Veronidae – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

SeaShell News, 3-18-15, Atlantic Distorsio, Shelling, Cayo Costa.

“Class Gastropoda Family Personidae Classification according to Turgeon et al. (1998)

Diagnostic characters: ¾ to 3 ½ inches in length; whorls distorted, aperture with grotesque arrangement of the teeth; siphonal canal twisted. Whorls with coarse reticulate pattern. Parietal shield glossy, reticulated with raised threads, colored white to brownish white. Slightly distorted body whorl evenly knobbed or reticulated; the parietal wall is generally reticulated.

Habitat: Moderately common, 9 to 119 m.

Range: North Carolina to Texas and the Caribbean; Brazil.”

Source:  Atlantic Distorsio.

SeaShell News: Whelk Egg Case, Shelling, Cayo Costa

SeaShell News, 3-12-15, Whelk Egg Case By Dystopos, Via Creative Commons.
SeaShell News, 3-12-15, Whelk Egg Case By Dystopos, Via Creative Commons.

SeaShell News, 3-11-15, Whelk Egg Case, Shelling, Cayo Costa.

“The knobbed whelk, Busycon carica, is a species of very large predatory sea snail, or in the USA, a whelk, a marinegastropod mollusk in the family Buccinidae, the busycon whelks.

The knobbed whelk is the second largest species of busycon whelk, ranging in size up to 12 in (305 mm).

Mating and egg laying occur during the spring and fall migration. Internally fertilized eggs are surrounded by a transparent mass of albumen, a gel-like material, and are laid in protective flat, rounded egg capsules joined to form a paper-like chain of egg cases, commonly called a “Mermaid’s Necklace”. On average each capsule contains 0-99 eggs, with most strings having 40-160 capsules. After laying their egg cases, female knobbed whelk will bury one end of the egg case into the substrate, thus providing an anchor for the developing fertilized eggs and preventing the string of egg cases from washing ashore where it would dehydrate. Fertilized eggs emerge as juvenile knobbed whelks approximately 4 mm in length.”

Source:  Whelk Egg Case.

SeaShell News: Shelling @ Cayo Costa & Lunch @ Cabbage Key

SeaShell News, Cabbage Key, 3-9-15.
SeaShell News, Cabbage Key, 3-9-15.

SeaShell News, 3-9-15, Shelling, Cayo Costa & Lunch On Cabbage Key.

Nothing like a nice trip to shell the beaches of Cayo Costa Island and then a fun lunch at Cabbage Key!

Here’s a bit of history On Cabbage Key …

SeaShell News, Egret, Cabbage Key, 3-9-15.
SeaShell News, Egret, Cabbage Key, 3-9-15.

“In the early 1930’s, Alan Rinehart & Gratia Houghton Rinehart began preparation for their winter estate on the Island of Cabbage Key.

After purchasing Cabbage Key for $2,500 they later spent over $125,000 on the amenities which exist today as a popular resort.

Alan’s mother, Mrs. Mary Roberts Rinehart, was very much present during early construction years & her influence is evidenced today as one tours the island. The main building incorporates elaborate architectural & engineering features including a solar energy system, 6 working fireplaces, 5 porches, storm shelter & a rain water system with 25,000 gallon storage built into the reinforced concrete foundation. Constructed high on an Indian shell mound, Cabbage Key, at 38 feet above sea level, is one of the highest points in this area of Florida.

The “Old House & Cottages” were opened to the public by Larry & Jan Stults, who operated the small island resort between 1944 – 1969. After the Stults’, Bob & JoAnn Beck ran Cabbage Key.

The present owners, Rob & Phyllis Wells, have lived on & maintained the unique charm of the island for over 35 years.”

Source:  Cabbage Key.

SeaShell News: Calico Scallop, Shelling, Cayo Costa Island

Seashell News, Cayo Costa Shelling, 3-6-15: Seashells Collected!
Seashell News, Cayo Costa Shelling, 3-6-15: Seashells Collected!

SeaShell News, 3-6-15, Calico Scallop, Shelling, Cayo Costa Island.

We had some fun shelling on Cayo Costa and then headed to Cabbage Key for lunch!

The Atlantic calico scallop, Argopecten gibbus, is a species of medium-sized edible saltwater clam, specifically a scallop, a marine bivalve mollusk in the family Pectinidae, the scallops.

This species was once the basis of an important fishery, but in recent years catches have been low.[1]

This species grows up to three inches in maximum width, and is similar in shape and sculpturing to theAtlantic bay scallop. Both valves of the shell are cupped. The shell near the hinge is extended into “ears”, as is the case in all scallops. The shell of the Atlantic calico scallop has about 20 radial ribs, which are sometimes roughened by growth lines.

The exterior coloration of the upper (left) valve is dark yellow or pink, with striking blotches of red which sometimes form stripes. The lower (right) valve of this scallop is whitish with small reddish or purple spots. It has a white interior, often with brown patches on the “ears” and top edge.

The lively outer coloration of the shell of this species gave rise to its popular name; in the USA, “calico” was for many years an inexpensive but colorful fabric printed with small flower patterns.

Source:  Calico Scallop.

SeaShell News: Fighting Conch, Shelling, Cayo Costa Island

Seashell News, Cayo Costa Shelling, 3-2-15: Alphabet Cone By Jessica Lucia, Via Creative Commons.
Seashell News, Cayo Costa Shelling, 3-2-15: Fighting Conch By Jessica Lucia, Via Creative Commons.

SeaShell News, 3-3-15, Fighting Conch, Shelling, Cayo Costa Island.

“Strombus alatus, common name the ‘Florida fighting conch’ is a species of medium-sized warm-water seasnail, a marine gastropod mollusk in the family Strombidae, the true conchs.

This conch occurs in the Western Atlantic Ocean from North Carolina throughout Florida and the Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana, Texas and the east coast of Mexico.”[1][2]

Source:  Fighting Conch.

SeaShell News: Alphabet Cone, Shelling, Cayo Costa Island

Seashell News, Cayo Costa Shelling, 3-2-15: Alphabet Cone. Photo Credit: coneshell.net.
Seashell News, Cayo Costa Shelling, 3-2-15: Alphabet Cone. Photo Credit: coneshell.net.

SeaShell News, 3-2-15, Alphabet Cone, Shelling, Cayo Costa Island.

Be careful with the alphabet cone!

“This particular cone is a predator that feeds on anything from marine worms to sizable fish. It hunts by extending its proboscis, ‘a muscular extension and retraction of the gut.’

When it touches prey, the proboscis launches a harpoon-like tooth that pierces the prey and injects deadly venom. The proboscis is then retracted, hauling the prey in.

The venom is very deadly and some species of cones have reportedly caused human fatalities.”

Source:  Alphabet Cone.

SeaShell News: True Tulip & Banded Tulip, Cayo Costa Island

True Tulip & Banded Tulip, 2-28-15, Cayo Costa Island, SeaShell News & Shelling.
True Tulip & Banded Tulip, 2-28-15, Cayo Costa Island, SeaShell News & Shelling.

SeaShell News, 2-28-15, True Tulip & Banded Tulip, Shelling, Cayo Costa Island.

A nice True Tulip and a Banded Tulip from shelling on Cayo Costa Island.

“The tulip shell has a fusiform outline, with an overall smooth surface, and presents fine growth lines, and small denticles on the inner edge of its delicate outer lip.[2] It is whitish to tan in color, with rows of darker brownish blotches of various sizes. Over the blotches are symmetrical rows of thin lines which spiral along the whorls of the shell, which are normally about 9[2] in number.

The shell of an adult tulip snail can be from 2.5” to 9.5” inches (6.4 – 24.1 cm) in length.”  Source:  True Tulip.

“The banded tulip shell does not grow as large as that of the true tulip, Fasciolaria tulipa. Also the color pattern is different: the color splotches appear as a redder color (blue in rare areas) and the stripes that give the banded tulip its name are much farther apart.

The shell grows to be 2 ¼ – 4 1/8 inches (5.7-10.5 cm) in length.”  Source:  Banded Tulip.