ASK THE AQUARIUM: What Color Eyes Do Scallops Have?
Q. Is it true that scallops have blue eyes?
A. Yes -- bright, brilliant blue eyes!
When a scallop opens its hinged shell, numerous beautiful but primitive eyes are visible along the interior rim. The tiny blue orbs -- as many as 60 -- can detect motion and light and dark, but probably don't produce clear images. However, the ability to sense an object that moves at the speed of a predator can be a lifesaver for these relatively sedentary bivalves.
Amazingly, scallops can "re-grow" eyes that are lost or injured.
Sensing the approach of a predator, such as a sea star, whelk, or crab, the scallop can clamp its shell shut to protect its soft interior, or quickly "clap" its shell together to generate a strong, jet-like pulse of water, sending it bouncing backward across the sea floor. Sometimes this willy-nilly flight is just enough to save it from becoming a meal.
Scallops usually rest on the sea floor with shells partially open. This allows water to be pumped over the gills and filtered for tasty tidbits of microscopic plants and animals on which they feed. Many fleshy tentacles extend from the mantle along the interior perimeter, acting as a sieve to filter out large particles and help alert the scallop to danger.
The size of scallops, and where they live, depends on the species. Some live in shallow, grassy sea beds. Others live in deeper offshore waters. There are more than 300 species of scallops worldwide.
Along the East Coast, three types are harvested: bay scallops, calico scallops and sea scallops. Bay scallops once supported a significant fishery in North Carolina. Today, however, the harvest is negligible because of population declines.
The state operates three public aquariums; one in Pine Knoll Shores, another at Fort Fisher and a third on Roanoke Island.
The aquariums are administered by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and are designed to inspire appreciation and conservation of North Carolina's aquatic environment.
For more information about the Aquariums, visit www.ncaquariums.com, or call 800-832-FISH.
More like this story