A moonsnail cements together sand grains and eggs in a collar shape encasement. (Photo by Jackie Hildering)

Moonsnails’ collar-shaped egg casings intrigue Vancouver Island beachcombers

As pictures of moonsnail collars go viral, the Marine Detective, steps in to educate people

Ever walked on a beach during low tide and noticed collar-shaped capsules?

And then wondered if it was probably trash?

Except it’s not. These collar-shaped cases are moonsnail collars consisting of thousands of eggs waiting to be hatched. And biologists are worried that people are unknowingly “cleaning” up moonsnail collars from the beaches.

Shaped like a detachable shirt collars, these glossy, sometimes rubbery looking bands often seem like industrial garbage to the untrained eye. Except, these are egg cases that female moonsnails build to lay eggs. They often surface on shores during low tides.

Jackie Hildering, a biologist and educator with the Marine Education and Research Society was most happy to see a lot of people suddenly wanting to know more about these sea mollusks.

Hildering took to her educational website, ‘The Marine Detective’ to explain the fascinating science behind moonsnail collars, after a resident posted pictures on social media wanting to know what they were.

Moonsnail collars contain thousands of microscopic eggs and sand held together with the moonsnail’s mucus. According to Hildering, the process is an “outstanding feat of engineering.”

When moonsnails are ready to lay eggs they collect grains of sand with their feet and, using mucus, cement the sand grains and eggs together to form this collar. The snail is often at the centre of this structure. After laying eggs and sealing them with yet another layer of sand and mucus, the snail crawls away from underneath the structure. When the eggs hatch, the collar breaks and the larvae swim out.

An intact collar indicates that it contains moonsnail eggs and should not be disturbed. Hildering advocates for a ‘no-take, no-touch’ policy and advises people against moving the collars.

Neither the moonsnails nor the collars are a recent phenomena, they appear every year on sandy beaches throughout the Island and are often visible during low tides.

“Moonsnails have been on earth probably even before humans,” said Hildering.

The fact that many people have only begun noticing them of recent, highlighted the disconnect that humans have had with nature all this while.

“After the pandemic, people have become more tuned with nature,” said Hildering, adding that several other variables including low tides made it possible for people to rediscover these fascinating mollusks on the island.

Lewis’ moonsnails are the largest and most commonly found species of moonsnail found on B.C. coasts.

Hildering also stressed on the need for people on Vancouver Island’s coast to know more about ocean creatures found closer home. She maintained that information and education are key to protecting more species.

Beach ethics and more on moonsnails can be found on The Marine Detective

READ ALSO: B.C.’s $50 million geoduck industry hit after China’s market slumps

READ ALSO: A Friday the 13th near-full moon brings midnight walkers out to Campbell River’s Willow Point Reef

EnvironmentOcean Protection

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A small number of the masks available at Disguise the Limit. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
West Shore costume expert showcases pandemic-safe Halloween looks

Maureen Cue models the best masked Halloween costumes

The Turkey Head Walkway. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Oak Bay community sees untapped potential in Turkey Head

Part 3 of a closer look at Oak Bay Marina and Turkey Head

Lookout Lake water levels are low as the dam undergoes upgrades. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
Colwood dam upgrades projected to be under budget

Province designates Lookout Brook as a high consequence dam should it fail

With Treat Street cancelled this year because of COVID-19, the Sidney BIA’s sixth annual Halloween Spooktacular will give trick-and-treaters like Jennifer Weiss (right) and Heidi Duncan other options, including a free drive-in movie at Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre. (Black Press Media File)
Sidney BIA hands out Halloween Spooktacular

Key elements of modified Halloween celebrations include free drive-in movie at Mary Winspear

Police closed McNeill Avenue after a workplace death Oct. 20, 2020. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
WorkSafe BC investigating man’s death during Oak Bay tree removal

Man was working for contracted tree removal company when incident occurred

FILE – People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing facility in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, August 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
167 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death recorded as B.C. enters 2nd wave

Three new healthcare outbreaks also announced

Advance polls are open from Oct. 15 to 21 with election day on Oct. 24. (Black Press Media file photo)
Nanaimo RCMP are asking for the public’s assistance in locating Michael Leighton, who is wanted on 11 warrants on Vancouver Island and is a suspect in a recent break, enter and theft in Nanaimo. (Photos submitted)
RCMP looking for break-and-enter suspect with 11 warrants on the Island

Nanaimo RCMP say Michael Leighton a suspect in theft of pistol and $40,000 worth of coins

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/NIH via AP
At least 49 cases of COVID-19 linked to wedding in Calgary: Alberta Health

McMillan says the city of Calgary has recently seen several outbreaks linked to social gatherings

UBC geoscientists discovered the wreckage of a decades-old crash during an expedition on a mountain near Harrison Lake. (Submitted photo)
Wreckage of decades-old plane crash discovered on mountain near Harrison Lake

A team of Sts’ailes Community School students helped discover the twisted metal embedded in a glacier

The official search to locate Jordan Naterer was suspended Saturday Oct. 17. Photo courtesy of VPD.
‘I am not leaving without my son,’ says mother of missing Manning Park hiker

Family and friends continue to search for Jordan Naterer, after official efforts suspended

Bernard Trest and his son Max, 10, are concerned about B.C.’s plan for students in the classroom. He was one of two fathers who filed a court application in August to prevent schools from reopening if stricter COVID-19 protections weren’t in place. That application was dismissed last week. (Contributed photo)
B.C. dad pledges to appeal quashed call for mandatory masks, distancing in schools

Bernard Trest and Gary Shuster challenged health, education ministries’ return-to-school plan

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
RCMP cleared in fatal shooting of armed Lytton man in distress, police watchdog finds

IIO spoke to seven civillian witnesses and 11 police officers in coming to its decision

A 34-year-old man was treated for a gunshot wound in Williams Lake Monday, Oct 19, 2020. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake man treated for gunshot wound after accidental shooting: RCMP

Police are reminding residents to ensure firearms are not loaded when handling them

Most Read