Identifying the Animals on the South Carolina Beaches

It’s fun to go shell hunting on the beach but there’s so much more to see than just shells.  Here’s is a shortlist of the things you’ll find on the beaches near Charleston.

Horseshoe Crab

Their name indicates they’re a crab but they are not in the crab family.  They are closely related to spiders and scorpions.  You may find them mating along the beach and laying their eggs in late spring, early summer.  Most likely you’ll just find their molts.  They look almost pre-historic!

Horseshoe Crab

Whelk

Two of the most common types of Whelks in South Carolina are the lightning whelks and knobbed whelks.  Live whelks live buried in the sand so most times when you find them they are usually abandoned and now inhabited by hermit crabs.  You’ll find them washed up on the beach during low tide.

Whelk

Skate Egg Casing

Skates swim at the bottom of the water just above the sand.  They look like they may have dangerous barbs on their tails like stingrays, but they do not.  Their egg casings, commonly called mermaids purses are often found along the shoreline.

Skate Egg Casing

Sand Dollar

If you’re lucky and put your feet a couple of inches in the sand under the water, you may find a sand dollar.  Live sand dollars are darker in color and have fur on them.  Be sure to place them back as they cannot live outside of the water.  The ones you find on the beach may be smooth and sun-bleached.  They’re very pretty.

Sand Dollar

Ghost Crab

You have to be quick to spot ghost crabs.  They’re typically found scurrying along the sand toward the end of the day.  They’ll run from hole to hole.  Their holes can be as deep as four feet!  They live on land but need the water as well.  You’re most likely to see them if you sit very still.

Ghost Crab

Cannonball Jellyfish

Cannonball jellyfish move gracefully through the water.  If you find them on the beach, they’re no longer living and look more like blobs.  They can be found in groups called a smack, swarm or bloom.  You’ll most likely find them in the hottest months of summer.

Cannonball Jellyfish

If you’re curious about the beaches near Charleston, here’s an article about the best beaches near Summerville.