The Assateague

Atlantic Bay Scallop (Aequipecten irradians concentricus)
up to about 3 inches

Frequently found on the Assateague beach, Atlantic bay scallop shells come in a variety of colors and usually have about 17 to 20 ribs and (if they haven't broken off) a pair of nearly equal "ears" at the hinge.

Scallops, unlike many other bivalves such as the clam, do not burrow in the sand; instead, they lie on the bottom and move by using their adductor muscle to rapidly open and close their valves, ejecting water around the hinge. The adductor muscle, inside and near the edge, is the part that is usually eaten by humans.

Around the edge of the scallop's mantle (the layer of tissue around the scallop's body that secretes the shell) is a series of blue eyes that, though rather weak, can detect movement nearby and warn of the presence of predators, particularly of sea stars.

The shells of this particular subspecies (concentricus) are found along the southern Atlantic coast. The scallop lives in shallow waters, usually where eelgrass is present. Bay scallops live up to about 20 months; they mature and spawn at about one year of age.

A mariculture project sponsored by the Virginia Institute of the College of William and Mary aims at restocking bay scallops. Overharvesting and pollution that has destroyed the eelgrass have led to a depletion of the numbers of bay scallops. The restocking program involves spawning bay scallops in trays and racks and then releasing them into the water. The program also encourages restaurants to sell the scallop as an edible, whole animal rather than just removing the adductor muscle for food and discarding the rest of the scallop as waste.

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