Atlantic Thorny Oyster (Spondylus americanus) - ROM2004_861_3

Atlantic thorny oyster, Spondylus americanus

Atlantic Thorny Oyster (Spondylus americanus)

length=15.5; height=10.0 cm
(measurements include the spines)
    • Attributes
    • Objects
    • Taxonomy
    • KingdomAnimalia
    • PhylumMollusca
    • ClassBivalvia
    • OrderPectinida
    • FamilySpondylidae
    • GenusSpondylus
    • SpecificEpithetamericanus
Object number: ROMIZ M12446
Not on view
DescriptionThis magnificent bivalve, Spondylus americanus, possesses large colourful spines which resemble the petals of a chrysanthemum. For this reason, this bivalve is sometimes called a Chrysanthemum shell. The common name of this species is misleading as it is actually a relative of the scallop, far removed from oysters. In nature, its long spines are encrusted with growths of marine organisms such as sponges, seaweeds and hydroids providing camouflage. Specimens with long spines occur in calm, protected waters. The hinge of this species works on the ball-and-socket principle where one valve of the shell is normally cemented to a rock, while the other is free to move. This species occurs from the southeast United States to Brazil and is found offshore on cliffs and wrecks from 10 to 50 metres. Its shell, including spines, may reach a diameter of 21 cm. Spondylus americanus is one of three principle shells found in Mayan graves as receptacles for jade and cinnabar (red mercuric sulfide used as a pigment—the most precious symbolic objects of the Mayan religion. Archaeologists think that the shells were placed there as solaces and talismans to accompany the soul in the afterlife on its journey to the underworld. The other shells most frequently associated with this ritualistic practice are Lyropecten nodosa and a scallop thought to be Pecten jacobaeus.
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