Have you ever wondered what those spongey balls on the beach are? The ones that are cream-coloured, look a bit like a natural bath sponge, bubbly-looking, and very light and papery when you pick them up?
These are known as Sea Wash Balls – I suppose because they are balls that are washed up onto the beach or because they were used as a wash sponge by sailors in times gone by. They are in fact the empty egg cases of a large marine mollusc called the Common Whelk (Buccinum undatum Linnaeus).
Each of the bubbles, or capsules, would have originally contained up to ten eggs but only one whelk will have survived from the hundreds of eggs. The reason being that this survivor is a ‘cannibal’ that develops well by eating all the others.
When you look really close up to these egg capsules, intricate sculpturing is visible on the capsules which is probably the result of dessication once out of water.
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