When bathing in a beach near Haifa, my 10 year old son found a beautiful small snail, light blue colored, about 1.5 cm in diameter. He took it out of the water to show it to me. While walking out from the water, the snail secreted some air like bubbles along with a lot of purple dye which tinted his fingers in a bluefish-purple color. He tried later to wash it up with a very strong (dish) soap and the color finally faded a little but the tips of his fingers stayed tinted until next day. Unlike the Murex snail, this snail was much smaller, glossy and smooth and light blue colored. Furthermore, the dye came out as a secretion of the live snail and there was of course no need to kill it or break it in order to obtain the dye. I would appreciate it very much if you could inform me if you checked out other snails along with the murex snail and why were these other snails disregarded.
Congratulations! Your son found the Janthina snail which Rav Herzog suggested as a possible candidate for the source of tekhelet after he researched the murex and found that it only gave a purplish color. (Prof. Elsner’s discovery of the Murex dye turning blue in the sun was only in the 1980′s!) Prof. Elsner and others have researched this Janthina snail and determined that the color in the snail is not a steadfast one. We have collected them in the past and brought them both to Prof. Elsner and Prof. Zvi Koren who both concluded that the color in the snail is not stable. There is someone by the name of Shaul Kaplan who has been convinced that the Janthina is in fact the tekhelet source. He has published some of his stuff and has a web site. Unfortunately, he will not let any significant scientists study the dyed string or be told the process he uses for dyeing. Rav Eliyahu Tavger was asked to respond to his articles and has a small piece on our web site in response to why the Janthina is not the most likely source for tekhelet even if it would be a good dye. Rav Tavger also found that several of Shaul Kaplan’s sources were not quoted correctly, and are in fact misleading. We are still interested in doing more research on everything connected to tekhelet, and if you should again find the Janthina alive, please put it in a jar with sea water and call us. We would love to have them in our aquarium to show people what they look like as well as provide the dye for further research for those who are interested. – Joel Guberman