Observe Sea shells along Mount Lavinia beach, Sri Lanka

Mount Lavinia is located close Colombo city. it’s a well known tourist destination because of the golden beach and very famous Mount Lavinia Hotel which is functioning since colonial period.

Apart from its value in sea-sand and sun tourism, Mount Lavinia is one of the best beaches in Sri Lanka to observe sea shells as well as marine molluscs. Also it became the finest place to study and observe sea shells and marine molluscs in their natural habitat. The rocky shore and adjoining beach stretching north words from the little bay by the Mount Lavinia hotel is rich in intertidal molluscs. Also some of them are restricted to the Mount Lavinia beach.

Rocky sea shore at Mount Lavinia
Rocky sea shore at Mount Lavinia from the book “Shells of the Sri Lanka seashore – by Dr Malik Fernando, Published by Ministry of Environment”

We can see giant rocky shores along the beach and in the shallow sea. Some of these have names like Dig gala, Bakamuna gala,Split rock, lovers’ rocks and the Pavilion rocks. These names are commonly use by local fishermen.

Dig Gala is low sheet of rock with rough surface it’s a best place for observe oysters and limpets. By walking  north wards along the Mt. Lavinia beach with in 200m you can reach to the dig gala. It can easily identify with the help of isolated tall rock which place near to flat sheet like rock.

Lovers’ rocks lay parallel to the railway track and its place right to the Mount Lavinia hotel. It’s actually heap of rock portions. Its named as lovers’ rocks because most of loving couples prefer to stay on these rocks.

Bakamuna gala is located in between mount Lavinia hotel and the Dig gala also its very much near to the hotel . From the hotel side it’s the first group of rocks that we can find.  Also it stands very much near to the water line.

Split rock placed In Front of the Mount Lavinia Hotel it is also a group of rocks which stands 3 to 5 M away from the water line and towards the sea side.

Pavilion rocks place left to the Mount Lavinia hotel .it’s a pavilion which is made from stone cubes. These stone cubes called as pavilion rocks.

All of these rocks have easy access from the beach. These rocks are rich in marine molluscs. As example Undulated periwinkles are very common in lovers’ rocks and pavilion rocks. In addition to these periwinkles limpets also can be seen on these rocky surfaces. Mt. lavinia beach is full with various types of sea shells as limpet’s shells, coffee bean shells, periwinkles shells, basket shells, cowries, cones, rock shells, horn shells etc. Objective of this little note is give a general idea about common sea shells wich is found in Mt lavinia beach.

Rocky sea shore close to Mount Lavinia beach
Rocky sea shore close to Mount Lavinia beach – cc flickr image by NiMaL13

Rayed Limpets (Cellana rota)

Rayed limpet is the most common species among limpets in Mt. Lavinia beach. The principle character of limpet species is the presence of an opening at the top point of the shell. Limpet shell doesn’t have any evidence of coiling. They usually live attached to the rocky surfaces. Rayed limpets are found as groups in most of the time. Shell of this species is highly coned with oval aperture. It has more colour morphs.

Star shaped limpet (Patella flexuosa)

Thick shell, rather flat than rayed limpet. The shell margin is irregular. It has strong radial ribs because of that its looks like star shape. This Star shaped limpet is found abundantly in bellan gala rock.

Ceylon cone (Conus ceylanensis)

Ceylon cone has a cone shape shell. These cone shape species have large shells. Also those shells have very smooth texture. Some species have tiny linear operculum.  This species commonly found in 1st reef in Mount lavinia.

Crowned cone (Conus coronatus)

Shape of the shell of this species varies from slender to chunky. Generally blue-grey with a white shoulder band and another anterior band, the spiral threads colored with white and brown –red dashes or with light brownish blotches on the blue-grey ground colour.it has small linear operculum. Crowned cone is easily found in Bellangala.

Radiate Top shell (Trochus radiates)

These top shells usually inhabit rocky bottoms, grazing on algae .sells are top-shaped with flat bases. Operculum is circular and thin. Shell of the species conical, straight –sided with pointed apex and wide circular bases.   Radiate top shell is the species which found frequently in Mount lavinia beach. These shells are axially striped red and white. This species mostly found at pavilion rocks.

Grape cowrie

This kind of shell called as Cowries. Cowries are popular among shell collectors as well as non collectors due to its glossy, colourful patterned shell. Grape cowrie has small, ovate shell and its covered in tiny pimple like swelling .The teeth extend across the whole width of the underside of the shell as ridges. Dorsally purplish. These cowrie species commonly found at Mount Lavinia hotel bay and along the beach.

Text adopted from the book “Shells of the Sri Lanka seashore” – by Dr Malik Fernando, Published by Ministry of Environment (2009)

Book: Shells of the Sri Lanka Seashore by Malik Fernando.
Shells of Sri Lanka book By Malik FeranandoThis book contains descriptions of 81 specimens. This includes only “shells of the seashore” and to the intertidal habitats (“includes those forms that live on that part of the coast that is periodically covered and uncovered by waves and the rising and falling of tides”).

Dr. Malik Fernando, a professional medical doctor and a diver has been interested in the natural history of the ocean for many years. He is thus not a fully fledged “malacologist” (those who study the whole animal, including the anatomy of the body) or a “conchologist” (those who study shells of molluscs), yet he is the best person who is capable of identifying our sea shells. In the absence of scientific study (Malacology) it has become difficult to specifically identify and document the number of species in the country. Thus the numerous publications of the region have been consulted by Dr. Malik in the compilation of this publication.

Read More on this book http://sundaytimes.lk/110227/Plus/plus_11.html


Dilshan is a wildlife enthusiast, former President of Young Biologists' Association, currently an undergraduate at Wayabma University.

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