Shell beds pose questions of provenance, but determining the degree of pre-depositional transport of bioclasts can be speculative. Bioclastic beds deposited on a broad, shallow continental shelf may consist of a minimally transported accumulation. In contrast, islands may have steep shelves and accumulate disharmonious bioclastic assemblages in deeper water. The latter are a signature of the stratigraphic record on many islands. Herein, we contrast differing examples of jumbled shell beds preserved around islands. The Lower Permian Mengkarang Formation of Sumatra preserves deep-water facies at the base of a volcanic section. Nektonic cephalopods overlie a fine-grained ash containing a diverse association of terrestrial pollen. The Lower Miocene Montpelier Formation of Jamaica yields allochthonous packstones and slide blocks of reef limestone embedded in chalk; the ichthyofauna indicates deposition in ≥200 m water depth. Abundant evidence that deposition occurred in a deep-water turbidite basin flanking a volcanic island is found in the Middle Miocene Grand Bay Formation of Carriacou, the Grenadines. Diverse, deeper water taxa are preserved in association with land snails, hermatypic scleractinians, algal balls and planktic pteropods. The famous Upper Pliocene Bowden shell beds, Jamaica, preserve terrestrial, shallow-water, deep-water and planktic taxa.