Jingle shells, such as this one, are commonly seen on Rhode Island's shore.
Jingle shells, such as this one, are commonly seen on Rhode Island's shore.
Irene H. Stuckey, courtesy of R.I. Natural History Survey

Jingle Shell (Anomia simplex)

Alternate common names: Gold Shell, Toenail Shell.
Color: Shell is shiny lemon yellow, golden, brownish, silvery black, or pale buff. Lower valve is white.
Size: 1 to 3 inches in diameter.
Habitat: Shallow waters, beaches, oyster beds, and mollusk shells.
Seasonal appearance: All year.


The jingle shell is a bivalve mollusk, similar to blue mussels, American oysters, and bay scallops, meaning it has two distinct shells or valves. The upper valve is convex and movable, while the fragile, lower valve is concave and matches the irregularities of the object to which it is attached. Despite a paper thin, almost translucent shell, the shell is strong. The shiny iridescence of the shell is retained even after death.

Life History and Behavior

Jingle shells are commonly mistaken for juvenile oysters because their shell is flat and round and they are often found in the company of or attached to American oysters. The jingle shell's lower valve is anchored to a rock or hard substrate by byssal threads secreted by a gland near the jingle shell's foot, passing through a hole in the bottom valve.

Jingle shells are filter feeders, taking in water and filtering plankton and other food through ciliated gills.

Special Notes

Adapted from The Uncommon Guide to Common Life on Narragansett Bay. Save The Bay, 1998.