Newport's Eelgrass and Its Residents: Scallops

Placopecten_magellanicus.jpg
"Placopecten magellanicus" by Dann Blackwood, USGS - Stellwagen bankWikimedia Commons.

Say hi to your new neighbors! These special residents of Newport Bay have been around for a long time but you might not know about them...until now. Newport's Eelgrass and Its Residents is a series of posts exploring different species living within the eelgrass meadows here in Newport. First up, Speckled Scallops.

Speckled Scallops


P6180011.JPGMost people interact with scallops by collecting their washed up shells on beaches, prepared on their dinner plate, or animated in cartoons like Spongebob Squarepants. In cartoons, scallops move around by clapping their shells together. What you may not realize is that many scallops actually do move like this in real life. While most scallops are sedentary and attach to a hard surface for life, the speckled scallop is quite animated and “claps” away from predators such as sea stars or an inquisitive human, as seen here.

The Speckled Scallop, Argopecten aequisulcatus, is found in shallow bays, often among eelgrass meadows. They prefer calmer bays over the open ocean and young scallops often attach to eelgrass leaves directly. The shells are usually within 2 to 4 inches long and are rounded with projecting wings of unequal size and 21 radiating ribs. The color of the shells vary but can range from pure white to a dark purple. 

The speckled scallop can have up to 100 blue eyes along the edge of its shell to detect predators from all angles. They swim by forcibly pushing water out of their bodies. Scallops feed by filter feeding, which allows them to pull water over their gills to separate out the plankton which they eat. Because of this, their presence may provide even more benefits to local water quality in Newport Bay!

eelgrass_restoration2.jpgThe most important role the eelgrass plays in a scallop's life is in its post-larval phase when it provides structure and protection to the young scallop. By using byssal threads, scallops attach themselves high enough on the eelgrass to stay out of reach from crabs and other predators. Although scallops attach to other substrates and structures, eelgrass is their preferred habitat. In fact, scallop survival increases as the density of eelgrass increases. Denser eelgrass meadows provide more protection to adult scallops from hungry seagulls. Living within an eelgrass meadow also helps prevent scallops from washing up on shore during a storm. As we restore more eelgrass in Upper Newport Bay, keep an eye out for these unique critters.

Help restore more speckled scallop habitat by helping us plant more eelgrass in Upper Newport Bay!

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