Close-up view of the brilliantly iridescent blue eyes of a scallop in Augsburg’s marine aquaria
Many people know of scallops as a tasty seafood, but most have never seen a living scallop. Scallops are diverse, with over 300 species of scallops living on the ocean floor worldwide. They range from shallow waters to areas several hundred feet deep. Scallops, classified as bivalve mollusks, hide some amazing secrets. For one, about sixty primitive tiny bright blue eyes eyes reside in rows along a scallop’s mantle edge to detect motion, light and dark. A scallop can easily regrow any lost or injured eyes. Although these eyes may or may not produce clear images, the ability to sense an object moving with the speed of one of the scallop’s predators allows the scallop to save its skin (or to be scientifically correct, its shells) by either shutting immediately or swimming away.
Secondly, scallops possess an unusual trait which most other bivalves lack: the ability to swim. Scallops can propel themselves away from danger by contracting their powerful muscles and “clapping” their shells together, forcing water out through openings on both sides of their shell hinge. They can move forwards backwards, make turns, and right themselves in this fashion. Scallops swim particularly when faced with a predator (e.g., a seastar). Otherwise, if left relatively undisturbed, scallops are fairly sedentary creatures that lie on the seafloor as they feed by filtering microorganisms from the water.
Those tasty cylindrical or disk-shaped morsels of scallop meat found in seafood shops are the adductor muscles that in the living scallops make their unique swimming ability possible.
The distinctive shape of scallop shells (with fin-like extensions on each side of the hinge), is familiar as the logo for a well-known oil company
Scallops normally rest on the on the seafloor with shells partially open to allow water to be pumped past the gills for filter-feeding and gas exchange.
Numerous fleshy tentacles extend from the mantle, looking like menacing teeth in this photo. These tentacles have sensory roles, helping to alert the scallop to danger that might warrant clapping the shells shut for protection, and they serve as a sort of sieve to prevent large particles from entering the mantle cavity (within which the delicate gills are exposed).