Janthina (purple sea snails) in the Florida Keys

When the winds blow, the shorelines of the Florida Keys tend to get sprinkled with delicate, beautiful purple sea snails known as janthina janthina. That’s not a typo, they’re so pretty, you have to say the name twice. Ha ha.

I’d been looking for these lavender jewels for years and it was my big brother who looked down and found one in the weed line at Old Settlers Park in Tavernier. When he gave it to me and told me I could keep it, I was thrilled!

Then we really started to search and wowza — we found a handful. I’m glad I decided to take more of these empty shells than I thought I might need, as half of them broke on the way home. Ugh. Don’t you hate that?! When I say they’re delicate, they are super fragile. Even just rinsing them under water to clean them is a task as they shells break apart.

According to Wiki, “Janthina janthina is a species of holoplanktonic sea snail, a marine gastropod mollusk in the family Epitoniidae.” They are also known as violet sea snails or purple sea snails — and these pastel beauties will eat just about anything. (And turtles like to eat them since they float on ocean currents on mucus-y “bubble rafts” that trap air.) Another cool fact is that they are a pelagic animal — that means it lives its life in the open ocean.

Have you ever found a janthina janthina?