|Pinctada margaritifera - MHNT|
Pearl oysters are saltwater clams, marine bivalve molluscs in the family Pteriidae. They have a strong inner shell layer composed of nacre, also known as "mother of pearl". The Pearl Oyster can be seen on the reversed side of the 1,000 Peso bill of the Philippines.
Pinctada maxima pearl oysters are the only oyster that produces South Sea pearls. Currently they are cultured primarily in Australia and Tahiti.
All species within the genus produce pearls of commercial value. Attempts have been made to harvest pearls commercially from many Pinctada species. However, the only species that are currently of significant commercial interest are:
- Gulf pearl oyster, Pinctada radiata; Persian Gulf, Red Sea, Mediterranean Sea and throughout the Indo-Pacific as far as Japan and Australia.
- Black-lip oyster, Pinctada margaritifera; Persian Gulf and southwestern part of Indian Ocean; Fiji; Tahiti; Myanmar; Baja California; Gulf of Mexico
- Gold-lip oyster, Pinctada maxima; Australia; Fiji; Tahiti;
- White-lip oyster, Pinctada maxima; Australia; Fiji; Tahiti; Myanmar;
- Akoya pearl oyster or Akoya pearl oyster, Pinctada fucata (also called P. imbricata), Red Sea; Sri Lanka; Persian Gulf; Indian Ocean; Western Pacific Ocean; Australia; China;
- Shark Bay pearl oyster Pinctada albina; Australia
The various species of Pinctada produce different maximum sizes and colors of pearls, depending on the size of the species and the natural color of the nacre inside the shell. Black South Sea pearls, or Tahitian pearls come from the black-lip oyster; white and golden South Sea pearls from the white-lip and golden-lip oysters; and Akoya cultured pearls from Pinctada fucata martensii, the Akoya pearl oyster.
Pearls are also obtained in commercial quantities from some species of the closely related winged oyster genus Pteria.
At danger from the large demand for pearls, the typical lifespan of a pearl oyster is usually around 3 years to 14 years. Pinctada maxima are seeded at about 2 years of age and take 2 years to fully develop a pearl. They can be reseeded up to 3 or 4 times. Akoya pearls are harvested after about 9 to 16 months.
- Shark Bay pearl oyster, Pinctada albina
- Pinctada atropurpurea
- Pinctada chemnitzi
- Japanese pearl oyster or Akoya pearl oyster, Pinctada fucata
- Pinctada laosensis
- Pinctada maculata
- Black-lip oyster, Pinctada margaritifera
- Pinctada martensi
- White-lip oyster or gold-lip oyster, Pinctada maxima
- Pinctada nigra
- Gulf pearl oyster, Pinctada radiata
- Pinctada virens
- French Polynesia black
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