The Scotch Bonnet

North Carolina's State Shell



In 1965, a shell resembling a traditional Scottish woolen cap or Scotch bonnet, was named the state shell of North Carolina, in part to honor early Scottish settlers.
Scotch bonnet shells wash ashore in abundance on North Carolina's Outer Banks.
They are rare elsewhere in the state.
Where are Scotch bonnets found in North Carolina?
The Gulf Stream moves tropical waters close to the North Carolina coast.
Tropical water mollusks, like the Scotch bonnet, can survive cold winter months in the Gulf Stream.
After storms, hundreds of Scotch bonnets may be washed ashore on the Outer banks especially bewteen Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout due to the close proximity of the Gulf Stream to that section of the coast.
Life Cycle of the Scotch Bonnet 
Female Scotch bonnets lay eggs in the spring.
Shell-less free-swimming larvae or veligers hatch from the eggs.
They drift with the ocean currents.
When they begin to form a shell, they settle to the bottom as crawling mollusks.
Scotch bonnets feed on sand dollars.
Scotch bonnets mature in one to six years.
The juvenile shell has a thin, delicate lip.
Mature shells have a thickened, rolled lip.
When a shell washes ashore, its color fades quickly upon exposure to the elements, especially the sun.
The shell is fragile so a complete specimen is always a prized find.

And finding a complete specimen that retains its color is a special treat, even to the seasoned collector.

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The above information is taken from an exhibit mounted by Cape Fear Museum, September 2007. Used with Permission.         


FACT: North Carolina was the first state in the USA to name an Official State Shell. This move was initiated by The North Carolina Shell Club.


A NEW State Size Record for the Scotch Bonnet, Semicassis granulata (Born, 1778) was found at the 2022 North Carolina Shell Club's Shell Show. It was brought to the show by Benjamin Wunderley, a former State employee working at Bear Island, a part of Hammocks Beach State Park sometime around 1999. He did not know there was an interest in maintaining size records of shells until reading about it on Social Media and brought it to the shell show to be measured. He has now joined the NC Shell Club!
The shell measured in at 91.25 mm.

Ben Wunderly tells about finding his shell.


A silent auction runs concurrently to the live auction.
Not only is it a great opportunity to support the shell show but a great opportunity to add new shells and/or related treasures to one's collection.  

Semicassis granulata  (Born, 1778)


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