Empty Limpet Shells – The Mystery and a Lesson

I could have included this my previous post on the Katlian Outcrops, but I thought it deserved it’s own post for a couple of reasons. First, it will make it easier to find in the future, and second I hope it helps me remember the lesson I should have learned many times before.

The outcrop was basically a cliff that seemed to go well below the bay’s surface. It was a good thing it was high tide, or I probably would not have been able to get off and look around at all. During the course of my visit, I walked a short distance along a ledge that varied from a couple of feet to several feet wide, bare rock in some places with a fair amount of vegetation growing in others.

In the first spot of vegetation I came to, I noticed a handful of empty limpet shells scattered over a small area on a carpet of moss protected by the trees and shrubs growing there. A few feet away, I noticed another shell on top of a very small ledge a foot or two off the main ledge I was standing on. I had a bit of curiosity about the shells, but was mainly focused on looking for different-seeming plants, so I only paused briefly to consider the shells and did not take any pictures.

I continued walking down the ledge a little bit further before turning around. At one point I noticed a small dark brown bird fly along the base of the cliff below me, but I had not noticed any other obvious (to me) bird sign on the ledge.. I looked at the shells as I neared my pick up spot, but by this time I had my hands full with rock fragments and bryophyte collections, so it did not seem worth it to take the time to put it all down and take a picture of the shells and their context.

Of course it wasn’t long after leaving the cliffs and heading back into town that the limpet shell mystery started to dominate my thinking about the place. I was kicking myself for not taking some pictures, it would have only taken a minute or so, and I knew this was a location I would not be likely to get back to soon. It’s not that the photos would necessarily have helped me solve the mystery, but they would have made it easier to verify my memories of some of the details and check for things I might not have noticed at that time. Plus it would have been nice to illustrate this blog post (which is one of only a few that don’t have photo illustrations) to give others a better chance to offer suggestions as to what the shells may have been saying.

If anyone has thoughts/ideas about the shells and how they came to rest where they were, I would be interested in hearing them. I will share my own theories in a follow-up post.

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