6/ Museum Week : Nature, The Shell Which Collected Other Shells

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Penultimate theme of the Museum Week, Nature is an infinite manna of colors, shapes, textures, as much of inspiration for the artists. This blog is primarily dedicated to objects, so let me introduce the unofficial mascot of Objets d’Histoire: Ladies and Gentlemen, in a thunderous applause, the xenophore collector!


Collecting Passion

The collector xenophore is a shell that loves his fellow creatures so much that he collects them. It’s the ultimate conchyophilus (the ugly word for the shell collector), you can not be more conchyophilic than a conchyophilic shell. It’s impossible.


This mollusc collects shells or small chips on the sea floor, it also appreciates the corals (dead or alive) and even the pebbles! Once he has found the perfect piece to enrich his collection, he sticks it on his own shell.


Collector Xenophore
© Siratus

Its name indicates this tendency to accumulation since xenophora means “who carries the other”.

This amazing seashell is found in the reefs, the rocky shores of the Western Pacific and the China Sea, it occupies a space ranging from Japan to the Philippines.

Several species of xenophore have been identified and each species has its favorite “objects” of collection according to, presumably, the depth and type of environment in which the shellfish live.


Weirdo Camouflage

If several hypotheses have been put forward to explain this passion of the collection, you can retain two that make sense.

The first presents the xenophore not as a sound conchyophile but as a coward who uses other shells as a defense mechanism. It build himself a kind of armour.

The second proposes that this collection that the xenophore sticks on its shell is actually a way to elevate itself to be able to feed itself by minimizing the displacements on the seabed and thus its visibility by the predators. Eat without being eaten. Smart.






  • MERMET G. et PACCALET Y., Trompe-L’œil, quand la nature fait illusion, Éditions de la Martinière, Paris, 2010
  • LEBRUN Patrice, PACAUD Jean-Michel, COURVILLE, Philippe, Les xénophores : des gastéropodes agglutinants. Les espèces du Cénozoïque français, Fossiles., Revue française de paléontologie, 28


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