North Carolina

Huge prehistoric clam among big seashells beached on Outer Banks by Hurricane Dorian

Photos posted by the National Park Service show the shell is nearly 6 inches across and as deep as a soup bowl.
Photos posted by the National Park Service show the shell is nearly 6 inches across and as deep as a soup bowl. National Park Service photo

A 2-pound prehistoric clam shell is being cited by Cape Lookout National Seashore as an example of the larger-than-average seashells washing up on the Outer Banks after Hurricane Dorian.

Photos posted by the National Park Service show a clam shell nearly 6 inches across and deep enough to be a soup bowl.

“The large storm waves during Dorian were strong enough to pick up and carry over the sand bars some of the largest shells,” park service officials said on Facebook. “Large whelks and other shells can be found on the beaches to the delight of our shelling visitors. But have you ever seen a clam shell that weighs 2 pounds?”

The park service didn’t give an estimated age for the shell -- other than to say it’s “very old” -- but said it had been around long enough to become fossilized.

“The actual species may no longer be found as a living organism, but it does resemble a modern clam species, the edible Quahog clam,” the park service said.

Modern adult quahog clams grow on average to “just less than 3 inches,” according to NOAA Fisheries.

“It was found after Hurricane Dorian along with many others. The strong storm waves brought a lot of the larger shells in,” Park Ranger Karen Duggan told the McClatchy news group.

“We do find shells of this size and age every so often on the beach, brought in by other storms or sometimes uncovered in the beach sands by the stronger storm waves... Most of our visitors do not realize just what they are seeing.”

Park rangers at Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras national seashores have warned for weeks that Hurricane Dorian may have washed unexpected things ashore, or exposed things long buried in the sand. In South Carolina, the debris included two Civil War-era cannon balls, WCSC reported.

Hurricane Dorian caused heavy damage at Cape Lookout National Seashore, ripping siding and roofs off historic buildings, flattening a century-old cemetery and carving dozens of new inlets.

The storm surge is also blamed for killing 28 wild horses on Cedar Island, between Cape Lookout and the mainland.

Cape Lookout says seashell hunters are allowed at the South Core Banks and Shackleford Banks, but not at North Core Banks, due to widespread damage.

“North Core Banks is the same island as Portsmouth Island,” the Cape Lookout officials said on Facebook.

“Currently, it is still not a single island, but many smaller islands and will remain so until the cuts/breaches/inlets created by Hurricane Dorian fill in and close -- this won’t be anytime soon,” officials posted.

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