Wild Harris

King Scallop

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The King Scallop or Clam is one of the largest bivalves in the seas around Harris, this shellfish prefers to live on sandy or gravel seabeds where it lies with its curved shell down and filters plankton from the water. It has a strong muscle which holds the shells tightly closed, and a bright orange organ which produces sperms and eggs. Around the edge of the shell are dozens of bright blue eyes which can detect approaching danger. This animal has the surprising ability to swim away from danger - by flapping its shell open and shut it can leap up from the seabed and propel itself for short distances through the water by jet propulsion - squirting water out through a gap in the side of the shell. This looks very comical, almost like a swimming set of false teeth. Scallops are very valuable and are caught by divers in shallow water, and fishing boats towing dredges (a heavy rake attached to a metal mesh bag) which unfortunately do considerable damage by smashing up everything else as they are dragged across the seabed.

scallop.jpgKing Scallop    (Photo: Paul Tyler)

A scallop lies on the seabed with the flat shell uppermost.

clam covered in sand.jpgHalf Buried Scallop    (Photo: Paul Tyler)

The scallop normally lives half buried in the sand, making it almost invisible.

pecten 2.jpgAlert Scallop  (Photo: Sue Scott)

A scallop on full alert! The short tentacles detect water movement and warn the shellfish of approaching danger. Small blue spots arranged around the edges of the shell are actually eyes.

swimming clam.jpgScallop Swimming  (Photo: Paul Tyler)

Takeoff! By rapidly opening and closing its shells the scallop can propell itself through the water by squirting jets of water behind it. It can swim far enough away to escape a hungry starfish.

by Paul Tyler

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