Australia's Shell Beach Lives Up To Its Name

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Shell Beach (Photo Credit: Brian W. Schaller (Own work) [FAL], via Wikimedia Commons)

Earlier this year, National Geographic released a list of the world’s 21 most beautiful beaches. High among them, especially for sea-shell lovers, is Shell Beach. Located in the Shark Bay World Heritage Area in Western Australia, it is home to a 37-mile (60 km) stretch of white cockle shells.

What makes the beach even more unique is that the billions of shells, which run as much as 32-feet (10-meters) deep in some areas, all come from a single species of mollusk – the Shark Bay cockle (Fragum erugatum). Found only in Western Australia, the marine bivalve mollusk, which measures less than 14 millimeters long, spends its life burrowed into the seafloor between depths of 3.9 feet (1.2 meters) and 21.3 feet (6.5 meters) in many areas of the bay.

Cockle Shells of Shell Beach (Photo Credit: By Lpm43792 (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The tiny creatures thrive in the area due to Shell Beach’s location in the horseshoe-shaped Shark Bay’s innermost region which keeps it sheltered from high tides. Additionally, thanks to the low precipitation, the area of the Indian Ocean is also known for high salinity. The excessive salt is not conducive to their predators, which include the starfish and marine catfish, allowing the Shark Bay cockle population to live and breed peacefully.

The combined weight of the prolific shells has compacted the lower layers into a type of sedimentary rock called coquina. Before Shark Bay was proclaimed a World Heritage Site in 1991, the stones were quarried by the locals for use as building materials. While coquina can now only be taken to maintain historic structures, many of the shelly limestone structures can still be seen in the area.

Coquina shell structures (Photo Credit: gdaywa.com)

Though the shells are probably the primary attraction, the beach is also a haven for weak swimmers or young kids, due to the calm, highly saline ocean waters that makes floating a cinch.

Resources: Wikipedia.org, australiacoralcoast.com,perthnow.au, odditycentral.com

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VocabularyPlay Game

breedburrowedcinchcocklecompactedconducivecoquinaexcessivehavenlimestoneprecipitationpredatorsproclaimedprolificquarriedsalinesalinitysedimentaryspeciesthriveunique
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Reading Comprehension (8 questions)

  1. What did National Geographic do earlier this year?
  2. What makes Shell Beach unique?
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Critical Thinking Challenge

What is your most favorite beach activity? Why do you enjoy it?

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Vocabulary in Context

“Though the shells are probably the primary attraction, the beach is also a haven for weak swimmers or young kids, due to the calm, highly saline ocean waters, that makes floating a cinch...

308 Comments
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  • hippenstriderWednesday, October 31, 2018 at 8:15 am
    Really cool and a knee slapper because im a sea-shell.
    • StArWaRsLoVeRTuesday, October 16, 2018 at 10:09 am
      oh my gosh this is super cool and i wonder where the other beach is i hope it is in florida
      • galaxy newsFriday, October 12, 2018 at 8:16 am
        Would't u get cuts from the shells
        • jhgodh0si0igsutFriday, October 12, 2018 at 8:13 am
          THAT SO COOL
          • fgnfnfngnMonday, September 24, 2018 at 11:49 am
            hi
            • dadMonday, September 24, 2018 at 11:49 am
              nice\
              • I.M.GMonday, September 24, 2018 at 11:48 am
                Cuts for days
                • oogga boogaMonday, September 24, 2018 at 8:45 am
                  OMG thats so cool
                  • AdorableWednesday, September 19, 2018 at 12:19 pm
                    That's sooooo cool 😎😍😜
                    • ManateeWednesday, September 5, 2018 at 9:59 am
                      wow that is pretty!!!

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