King Scallops

Pecten maximus

Scallops are two-shelled molluscs, known as bivalves. With distinctive, ridged shells which hinge together, these creatures live in the seabed, often in self-made dips in the sand. As filter feeders, scallops have a fringe of tentacles which reach outwards from the shell’s opening, sifting tiny plankton from the water.

Scallops have up to 200 bright blue eyes around the edge of the shell. These eyes can sense changes in light and movement meaning they can detect shadows and disturbance made by predators.

Scallops are an important commercial species caught by scallop dredgers. Heavy and destructive, dredgers cause enormous damage to the seabed which can take a long time to recover, especially through sensitive habitats like seagrass and maerl.

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Great scallop. Photo credit Paul Naylor
Great scallop. Photo credit Paul Naylor

Did you know?

Unlike some other bivalves, which remain tethered to the seabed throughout their lives, scallops are able to move. They do this by clapping their two shells together, causing them to flap backwards. This is helpful when avoiding predatory starfish.

Where I am

Found around the coast of the UK. Young scallops are found in Maerl beds where they find shelter before moving to other habitats, including seagrass beds.