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Molluscs and Murder 

click to enlarge An opened free-swimming juvenile scallop.

Photo by Mike Kelly

An opened free-swimming juvenile scallop.

Well, I was acquitted of murder again. This time I had beaten a man to death with my bare knuckles because he called a scallop a "clam." The judge agreed it was justifiable homicide, saying, "If the victim had read Washed Up regularly like a good citizen, he wouldn't have been so ignorant and Mr. Kelly would not have suffered the eight broken fingers."

As you'd imagine, I became an instant hero to the scallop community. So I agreed to visit the Scallop News Network (SNN) down in the tide pools for an interview.

The interviewer was an attractive female giant rock scallop (Crassadoma gigantea), and the sound engineer was a hunky male rock scallop. She began the interview with, "Thank you so much Mike — may I call you Mike? OK. Mr. Kelly, it means so much to all scallop species worldwide that you would defend our honor. Tell me, when did you first become aware of us giant rock scallops?"

"It was when I was a young man and found one of your shells washed up. The shell was 6 inches across and had a very pretty purple patch on the hinge."

"We have a purple patch on our hinge?"

"Yes. In fact, some people call you the purple-hinge rock scallop. But I suppose you wouldn't be able to see the purple unless you were dismantled, despite having all those beautiful eyes interspersed with the tentacles that span your orange mantle."

"Thank you," she said. "Most people don't realize we can see them approach. We close our shells tight and, since we are usually covered in a layer of sponge and other encrusting organisms, we simply disappear into the rock we are cemented on."

"I was wondering about you rock scallops being attached to a hard substrate like that. Many species of scallop are free-swimming hermaphrodites. Your species has separate males and females, but you have no opportunity to hook up. You and the sound engineer gaze longingly at each other. Gosh, it must be a lonely existence stuck to a rock for literally decades with no intimacy."

"Everyone has their kinks, Mr. Kelly. Besides, when we are juveniles we are able to scoot around on jet propulsion by clapping our shell valves together using contractions of our powerful adductor muscle. So we get several months to sow nonreproductive wild oats. But we soon realize that bondage is preferable. We find a suitable spot, produce some byssal threads for temporary attachment and begin the process of secreting shell material for permanent attachment. Does this offend you?"

"No, no. I'm not judging," I explained. "Your niche is just as valid as mine. I just highly value snuggling, that's all. Besides, I always get a little thrill when I find your species on a rock."

"Have you seen many of us in the wild?"

"Oh, yes. You are pretty common where people haven't harvested all of you."

"Um ... harvested?"

"For sure. That adductor muscle of yours is probably the sweetest meat in the sea."

"You would eat me?" she asked.

"Hell, yeah! But don't be a hypocrite now. You eat your own babies. Why do you look so horrified? You are a filter feeder, so you eat whatever tiny organisms are suspended in the water without prejudice, which will invariably include your species' larvae. You are a cannibal and if you had read Washed Up you wouldn't be so willfully ignorant. So take this!" I said.

"AHHH! What are you doing with that knife? I beg of you, don't murder me!"

"Ha! I don't call it murder. I call it yummy."

Biologist Mike Kelly (he/him) writes science-based satire as M. Sid Kelly. It's available at Eureka Books and for Kindle.

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