Despite the number of Whelks recently consumed at the Hastings Old Town Whelk eating competition, I don’t often see their shells on the sandy beaches of Fairlight cove at low tide. I recently did find one, which moved while I looked at it-a hermit crab was inside. Yesterday I decided to investigate further, and spent some time looking for Whelk shells at low tide. Initially I found 4, all of which had a hermit inside, ones with the right claw larger than the left, perhaps Pagurus bernhardus, which is the largest and commonest hermit in NW Europe.
This suggested that all whelk shells here had a hermit inside and I wondered if the gulls realised that-it seemed so as I then found a hermit crab inside a whelk which had apparently been dispatched by a gull.
Then I found a Whelk shell and a Reticulated Dog Whelk shell almost touching in shallow water, when turned over they both contained hermits-why were they together ?.
Crossing some shallow water to get back to the shore, I found a further 4 hermits in Whelk shells moving rapidly across the bottom, legs fully extended-I was unable to photograph these as the water was too rough, but will try later. Finally, another shell not usually found here, I think a Necklace shell, also contained a hermit.
All this suggests that if you want to see these amazing creatures, just look for a whelk shell at low tide.