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Mollusks

Page 1

Mollusks comprise a group of soft-bodied animals that includes snails, clams, and sea slugs. The most common characteristic of most mollusks is their shell. One of the largest groups, the snails, is renowned for their shells. Snails are univalves, which means they have one shell. And it is this shell that for many people is the epitome of the ocean. There is perhaps no other ocean treasure that displays more diversity and beauty than the shell. Conchology, the study and collection of shells is a popular hobby the world over. The bivalves, or two-shell mollusks include the clams, scallops, and oysters. It is the oyster that is responsible for producing the most coveted of the ocean's treasures - the pearl. Still other mollusks have lost their shells altogether. The octopus, the squid, and the sea slugs have evolved their own survival strategies to replace their protective armor. Indeed, it is due to the absence of a protective shell the octopus has evolved the largest and most complex brain of all the mollusks. Below is a listing of some of the most common mollusks found on the world's coral reefs.

Yellow Nudibranch (Notodoris minor)
Yellow Nudibranch
(Notodoris minor)

The nudibranch is without a doubt the most colorful of all the mollusks. There are hundreds of species, and are different and exhibit an endless variety of beautiful designs. Nudibranchs are members of the sea slug family and have lost their protective shells. They feed mainly on algae, although some species will eat corals and sponges.

Giant Clam (Tridacna maxima)
Giant Clam
(Tridacna maxima)

The giant clam is the largest bivalve in the world. Some species can reach 4 feet in length. Their bright colors are caused by tiny algae called zooxanthellae. These algae use sunlight to provide nutrients to the clam and receive other nutrients in return. This species if found in the southwest Pacific, and reaches 14 inches in length.

Giant Clam (Tridacna crocea)
Giant Clam
(Tridacna crocea)

This species of giant clam is also found in the southwest Pacific Ocean, and is the most colorful member of the giant clam family. The colorful spots are the clam's "eyes" and allow it to sense light intensity. If a shadow falls on the clam, it will quickly withdraw into its shell. This species reaches a length of about 9 inches.

Flame Scallop (Lima scabra)
Flame Scallop
(Lima scabra)

This extremely colorful species of scallop is found in the Caribbean, and reaches a size of 3 inches. They have an amusing method of propulsion which involves clapping their shells together to jet propel themselves through the water. They are filter feeders and feed on plankton and other nutrients in the water.

Flamingo Tongue Cowrie (Cyphoma gibbosum)
Flamingo Tongue Cowrie
(Cyphoma gibbosum)

Cowries are a group of snails that are of great interest to shell collectors because of their beautiful shells. The shells are very polished and shiny and feature a wide range of colorful patterns. They are nocturnal and eat algae and dead animals. Some species will feed on both hard and soft corals. The flamingo tongue is not recommended for the aquarium, as it tends not to live long in captivity.

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