Stunning images of mollusc shells reveal their beauty and diversity

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Photographer Kevin Webb

THE fascinating diversity of mollusc shells is showcased in these striking photographs of part of the shell collection at the Natural History Museum in London. The images are taken from Interesting Shells, a new book by Andreia Salvador, senior curator of Marine Mollusca at the museum. Containing more than 8 million specimens, the museum’s shell collection is one of the largest in the world.

Molluscs are invertebrates – soft-bodied animals without an internal skeleton – and include snails, oysters and cuttlefish, as well as some organisms that don’t have a visible shell at all, like slugs. They can range in size from snails less than 2 millimetres long to giant squid, which can reach 13 metres in length, writes Salvador.

The top row of images shows: the shells of a Venus comb sea snail, an episcopal mitre sea snail, a marbled cone sea snail, a spiny Venus clam and a Lazarus jewel box clam.

The photo at middle right shows a shinbone tibia gastropod, another species of sea snail.

The bottom row of images shows: the shell of a green tree snail, West Indian worm shells and Cuban land snails.

These hard exoskeletons in the images are used as protection against the environment and predators. The shells are made of calcium carbonate and a protein called conchiolin, which, as Salvador writes, are secreted by the mantle, a layer of tissue covering the soft parts of the body. As the mollusc grows, new shell is secreted, making more room for the animal.

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