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Pinctada radiata pearl oyster

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Pinctada radiata

Distinguishing Characteristics
Pinctada radiata is most famous for being one of the greatest sources of natural pearls. Historically, P. radiata pearls from the Ceylon region made up the majority of pearls available. This particular variety has almost entirely white nacre which produces predominantly silver and yellow pearls. The lips of the pale yellow scallop are slightly pink. Seven-eight brownish radial bands encircle the shell. The Persian variety is larger and darker with reddish lips.

pearl shell diagram
Pearl Shell Diagram
Habitat and Ecology
P. radiata is characteristic of hard surfaces and has been found attached to rocks and hard sandy plateaus, 10-20 meters deep. Oysters are attached in clusters to many via byssal threads (the tough organic fiber made by oysters). Over the years an assemblage consists of dead pearl oyster shells, tube worms, calcareous algae, and dead coral. This structure acts as a landing dock for the veliger (free-swimming larva) to metamorphose into juvenile pearl oysters that will maintain the reproductive cycle. Storms and predators are a major threat to the sustainable health of this thriving habitat.

Pinctada radiata pearls
Pinctada radiata is mostly known for producing seed pearls and some medium sized pearls. Seed pearls are a commercial term describing pearls with a diameter of less than 2mm (<0.25 grains). Due to their thin shell, P. radiata provides the cheapest Mother of Pearl. Until the 1920s, P. radiata (especially those from the Ceylon region of Sri Lanka) fueled the world’s demand for Mother of Pearl and pearls. The Ceylon oyster is similar to the Akoya, but is not used in pearl cultivation like the Akoya pearl oyster. This is due to several factors:

Since the 1930s, Petroleum has dominated the economies of the Persian Gulf and Red Sea countries, which make up the bulk of the P. radiata shell. The discovery of oil in pearl harvesting and diving that ended in the 1930s was just a hobby.
Bahrain, Sri Lanka and India have each tried to develop a cultured pearl industry, but tradition favors natural pearls
Through years of aquaculture, Japan has created the most robust Akoya oyster farm to cultivate the pearl it loves: large, round, shiny and milky white.

Pearls from P.radiata have historically been used for decoration and jewelry. Most of the pearls are exported from Bahrain and then shipped to London. The shells were given a symbolic meaning and some have been recovered from ancient tombs of the Hellenistic-Roman period.

Originally thought to be P. radiata, P. anomioides is now designated as a separate species.