#21 - CALICO SCALLOP (Argopecten gibbus)
Either walking the beach at Newton Park or touring the shell wall forming the underground archaeological exhibit at Mound House, you will invariably find the colorful shells of this enigmatic little scallop. Rarely found in the shallows, calico scallops prefer deeper waters and inhabit anywhere from 30 to 1,300 feet of water all along the coast of Florida and into the Carolinas. Scallops are swimmers and mass migrations occur up and down the coast to take advantage of seasonal changes in both the Gulf and Atlantic. Genetic identification of calico scallop populations show that larval scallops from Florida take advantage of coastal currents such as the gulfstream to find their way as far north as North Carolina. Occasionally after storms, live calico scallops can be found washed ashore in great numbers. Given that calicos are a deep water species, this is perhaps how they were harvested by the Calusa and eventually became part of the Mound. Today ,calico scallops are harvested commercially by trawlers ,but this is a true “boom or bust” species with catches ranging from a few thousand to millions of pounds depending on the environmental conditions which cause population cycles to change. Scientists believe that many of the massive calico scallop beds on the seafloor are never found because of how calicos readily migrate to better conditions. Scallops are filter feeders living primarily on a diet of microbial suspensions including bacteria as well as detritus and other organic matter. Calico scallops rarely live beyond two years of age and grow to about 2 inches in size making them somewhat smaller than bay or sea scallops. In addition to frequently finding themselves as the entrée at many of our Islands’ seafood restaurants, calicos are preyed upon by starfish, octopus, squid, numerous species of fish, crabs, rays, and even sharks.