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  • José H. Leal

A Very Special Scallop



Throughout my few decades as a professional malacologist (and shell lover), I often hear the question “What is your favorite shell?” The answer? I confess that I haven’t been consistent, switching from species to species, according to year, mood, location, and circumstances. One species that is dear to my heart is the Mediterranean Scallop, Pecten jacobaeus (Linnaeus, 1758), also known as the Saint James Scallop. In addition to its attractive and well-proportioned shell, the species played (and still plays) a cool cultural role, as the symbol for the Catholic pilgrimage to the shrine of Saint James at Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, northwestern Spain. The strongly concave, lighter-colored bottom valve was used by pilgrims in the Middle Ages as a cup during their long hike along the 500 mile-long Saint James Way (Camino de Santiago). The shell depicted in the photo is part of the National Shell Museum's collection, catalogue number BMSM 23597. Support the great work done by the National Shell Museum Collection Department by donating today.