sarahkeenihan

Day 52. Abalone

In October 2012 on October 3, 2012 at 4:04 pm

Abalone shells are particularly plentiful at the bottom of Yorke Peninsula. These specimens we’ve collected over the past few days are Roe’s Abolone,

Oval with rough spiral cords of variable size. Reddish brown, sometimes with green rays. Grows to about 120mm long. Abundant and gregarious on rocks in the lower intertidal and shallow sub-tidal zones. Fished commercially. South Western Australia (Handbook to Australian Sea Shells, Barry Wilson).

The shells are lined with mother-of-pearl, which is of course very beautiful but also plays an important engineering role for the abalone. Also known as ‘nacre’, the mother of pearl is composed of calcium carbonate crystals interleaved with proteins.  Tiny nanoscale bridge structures in the nacre ensure the alignment of crystals is maintained as the creatures grow, and give the shells an extraordinary degree of strength. The abalone itself forms the shell through both mechanical and chemical actions.

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