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New NBDC swatch a simple guide to identify seashells

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The Waterford-based National Biodiversity Data Centre pioneered the idea of swatches for identifying wildlife. Their latest addition to their growing collection is the new Marine Bivalve Shells identification swatch

The Waterford-based National Biodiversity Data Centre pioneered the idea of swatches for identifying wildlife. Their latest addition to their growing collection is the new Marine Bivalve Shells identification swatch

The Waterford-based National Biodiversity Data Centre pioneered the idea of swatches for identifying wildlife. Their latest addition to their growing collection is the new Marine Bivalve Shells identification swatch

A 'swatch' is a word that you may not associate with a wildlife identification guide. Originally used in the clothing trade, a swatch was a small sample of fabric. If you were having a jacket made to measure, the tailor would produce a swatch, a little book of fabric samples to pick from, with colours, patterns and textures to suit all tastes.

The idea spread from the clothing trade to home decorating with colour cards for paints, samples of worktop laminates, books of wallpapers, carpets, and whatnot.

The Waterford-based National Biodiversity Data Centre pioneered the idea of swatches for identifying wildlife. Their latest addition to their growing collection is the new Marine Bivalve Shells identification swatch.

Seashells are always interesting to look out for on a stroll along the tideline on a sandy beach to see what bounty the last tide cast up from the bed of the inaccessible nearshore waters.

Seashells can be broadly divided into two main groups: those with the shell in one piece like a periwinkle, limpet or whelk, and those that have shells made up of two pieces, called valves, that are hinged together as found in cockles, mussels and scallops. The latter are the bivalves.

The new swatch opens like a fan with full-colour plastic segments illustrating 48 species of marine bivalves that can be found around the Irish coastline with tips on how to identify them.

Small and lightweight, the swatch fits nicely in one hand and since it is hinged it can be easily fanned out and folded up again with one hand. This little mine of information is available online for a very reasonable €6, with no VAT and free shipping to Ireland.

The Marine Bivalve Shells identification swatch is the eighth in the Ireland's Biodiversity ID swatch series and is the first swatch for the identification of marine species. The other seven deal with Shieldbugs (18 species), Ladybirds (22 species), Dragonflies and Damselflies (24 species), Butterflies (34 species), Bumblebees (19 species), Terrestrial Mammals (27 species) and Trees and Shrubs (35 species).

The image above features four seashells. Can you name all four? If not, maybe you need the swatch! Visit the National Biodiversity Data Centre online shop at www.biodiversityireland.ie/shop/. All identification swatches cost €6.00. Bulk orders of 20 swatches or more can avail of a discount if you contact staff at the National Biodiversity Data Centre by email at info@biodiversityireland.ie, or by 'phone at 051 306 240.

Online Editors