Collecting in Corralejo and Cotillo by Jonathan Welsh

 Map Courtesy of Fuerteventura Tourist Office

This time, we headed for the Canary Islands, specifically the quieter island of Fuerteventura, situated only 100 miles from the West African coast. I had heard good reports about the shells from my friend Brian Hammond (as he has been previously) plus, it was sunny and hot!

On the second day of our holiday, we wondered down to the beach at Corralejo. where we were actually staying. This is a small, touristy town about 40 minutes from the airport. The beaches are a mixture of volcanic rock (specifically Basalts) and sand, blown on the trade winds from the Sahara. Anyway, luckily, this beach was only about 10 minutes from our hotel, which was rather useful. I initially concentrated on the area to the left of a large breakwater but only because it was less crowded. I scanned the strandline, which is composed mostly of small pebbles of volcanic rock and pieces of Monodonts. I wondered further down the beach and onto the rocks themselves. Fortunately, the tide appeared to be going out so I had plenty of areas in which to look for shells. The Monodonts appeared to be in two distinct zones, the species M.turbinata Born 1778 at the top and M.lineata da Costa 1778, at the lower end, nearer the sea. marginella glabella, Linne 1767. Courtesy Lowtide shells The lower zone also included many Cerithium rupestae Risso 1826 and Nassarius pfeifferi Philippi 1844 but in addition to these, I also found Natica filosa Philippi 1845 (damaged so discarded), and Marginella glabella Linne 1767, beached and both sadly inhabited by Hermit crabs, Astrea species (very beach and crabbed), Luckily, these can usually be persuaded to move house if given a larger shell to move into (in these cases fairly intact Monodonta which seemed to be everywhere). As regards bivalves, I found Venerupsis decussata Linne 1758, Gastraria fragilis Linne 1758, Diplodonta rotunda Montagu 1803, Irus irus Linne 1758 and Spisula subtruncata da Costa 1778.

columbella rustica, Linne 1758. Courtesy Lowtide shells

The next day I did any collecting was Saturday, this time we were in search of somewhere to eat and left a little earlier so I could have a look at a different area of the same beach, about a quarter of a mile from the other place I had surveyed. At first glance, this area was not much different from the previous one; volcanic rocks and sand with zonation of Monodonts. The strandline was not much different either; mostly dead crabs, nut husks (does anyone know if the Spanish eat lots of nuts?) and Monodonta. However, I peered a little closer and after a short while, I found two small Spirula spirula Linne 1758, several damaged Columbella rustica Linne 1758, a small terrestrial snail (possibly Pisania species) and lots and lots of Monodonts. The following day, I decided to go back there, just in case I had missed anything due to tides etc. and also to see if I could find any microshells, which I had not specifically looked for previously. After a very short time, hidden amongst algae covered rocks, I found a fifty or sixty millimetre Thais haemastoma Linne 1758; the second largest I have ever seen (I have one in my collection that is seventy millimetres) and alive. I do not like to collect live specimens, I left it alone, only later realising that I should have taken a photograph of it. Sadly, I was unable to re-locate it when this thought occurred to me. I also found a large fragment of Conus descidiosus Adams 1854 that was too badly damaged to bother with.

The following day we headed, via the very reasonably priced local bus service to El Cotillo, on the opposite side of the Island where Brian had said he found the most shells. We arrived around 11.45 in the morning and after a short walk through a plantation of fir trees we found ourselves on a rocky part of the beach. As elsewhere, the beach was mostly rock with black Basalts and there are also little coves cut into it by wave action. However, I started at the strandline. In a matter of minutes, I had found Spirula spirula Linne 1758, half a Haliotis coccinea canariensis Nordsieck 1975 and several Monodonts

cypraea lurida pulchroides, Alvarado Alvarez 1964. Courtesy Lowtide shells

I continued to search and at various places up and down the beach and in the hollows I found the following species. Cypraea lurida pulchroides Alvarado & Alvarez 1964 (my first ever self collected Cypraea, sadly beached), Conus descidiosus Adams 1854, Janthina janthina Linne 1758 (damaged),Columbella rustica Linne 1758, a tiny echinoid, the usual bivalve species, Epitonium commutatum Monterosato 1877, both species of Monodonts (interestingly about a third bigger here than at Corralejo), Haliotis coccinea canariensis Nordsieck 1975 (3 fully intact, lovely specimens, in total), Mitra nigra Gmelin 1791, Cerithium rupestae Risso 1826, Littorina striata King 1832, Thais haemastoma Linne 1758, Triphoridae species, Tricolia pullus Linne 1758 and all the same bivalves as encountered at Corralejo. I also found many microshells; all this in 3 hours of not very systematic searching! I also bought a small bag of sand home for sorting out the microshells (something for those long, cold winter evenings!) Also here, there were far fewer Hermit Crabs to worry about evicting. On our final day, we headed down to the docks. I was hoping to find some old nets full of shells but I couldn't find any nets or fishermen to ask (plus my Spanish is restricted to "Hola!" & "gracias"). Further down from here is another rock beach but this time with little or no sand at all. In my searching here, I only found one solitary shell -a very small, pretty and alive Thais haemastoma Linne 1758, which I left alone.

That was about it for shelling although I was very tempted to buy some shells from the tourist shops. One even had a very poor example of Charonia tritonis Linne 1758 for ninety euros in the window; it also had Cassis cornuta Linne 1758 (from twenty to eighty euros, depending on the size) -both these species are on the C.I.T.E.S. list so where are they getting them from? In addition to these protected species, they also had Voluta imperialis Lightfoot 1786, Cypraecassis rufa Linne 1758, Terebra maculata Linne 1758, Lambis lambis Linne 1758, Lambis chicagra Linne 1758 and the subspecies arthritica Roding 1798, Lambis truncata Lightfoot 1786, starfish and Puffer fish. Even more unusually for a touristy shop, they had the Latin names correct or very nearly correct on all the shells, which is most unusual.

So, to sum up, if you go to Fuerteventura, don't bother too much with Corralejo, head eastwards to El Cotillo for much, much better shells (and remember to bring some sturdy shoes for climbing on the very sharp volcanic beaches!)

We would like to thank Lowtide Shells specialists in West Africa for the shell pictures

Macro species for area

Astrea species, 
Cerithium rupestae Risso 1826,
Columbella rustica Linne 1758,,
Conus descidiosus Adams 1854, 
Cypraea lurida pulchroides Alvarado&Alvarez 1964,
Epitonium commutatum Monterosato 1877,
Haliotis coccinea canariensis Nordsieck 1975,
Janthina janthina Linne 1758,
Littorina striata King 1832,
Marginella glabella Linne 1767,
Mitra nigra Gmelin 1791,
Monodonta lineata da Costa 1778
Monodonta turbinata Born 1778,
Nassarius pfeifferi Philippi 1844,
Natica filosa Philippi 1845,
Thais haemastoma Linne 1758,
Tricolia pullus Linne 1758,
Triphoridae species

Diplodonta rotunda Montagu 1803,
Gastraria fragilis Linne 1758,
Irus irus Linne 1758
Spisula subtruncata da Costa 1778,
Venerupsis decussata Linne 1758,

Others -Cephalopods
Spirula spirula Linne 1758,

Others- Echinoids
Unknown species(c.f. Echinocyamuspusillus (Muller)
from the Red Crag fossil deposit,
East Anglia) Terrestrial Gastropods possibly Pisania species

This web page was last updated on 31 August 2003
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