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Pinctada maxima is a species of pearl oyster, a marine bivalve mollusk in the family Pteriidae, the pearl oysters. There are two different color varieties: the White-lipped oyster and the Gold-lipped oyster.
These bivalves are the largest pearl oysters in the world. They have a very strong inner shell layer composed of nacre, also known as "mother of pearl". They are important in the cultured pearl industry as they are used to produce South Sea pearls.
Pinctada maxima oysters grow very large, up to 12 inches in diameter. The two color varieties have different coloration in the outer edge of the interior. This mother of pearl or nacre is responsible for the color of the pearls that the oyster can produce. Water temperature, plankton and sediments determine which color variety is more common in a given area.
Pinctada maxima is the only species that produces South Sea pearls. Currently south sea pearls are cultured primarily in Australia and Tahiti. Because these pearl oysters are so large, a much larger nucleus than usual can be used in culturing.
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