Atlantic Winged Oyster
Pteria colymbus Röding, 1798
The Atlantic Winged Oyster shell may reach a length of three inches. Each half of the bivalve is shaped something like a notched wing. One valve of the pair is a little more inflated than the other. The posterior end of each valve is longer than the anterior. The outer edge of the posterior margin is rounded. The hinge line is quite straight.
The exterior of the shell is wrinkled. Younger specimens often have prickly-looking spines. (Some of the shells may be decorated with barnacles, as you can see in the photo.) Living or fresh Atlantic Winged Oysters have a matted brown fur-like covering, called the periostracum.
The inside of each valve is a lovely pearly silver-white color, with a non-pearly margin. The exterior, beneath the periostracum, is a gray-green-brownish color, with paler rays emanating from the beak area.
The Atlantic Winged Oyster is called a Pearl Oyster. It is a member of the Pteriidae family, which also includes the Atlantic Pearl Oyster (Pinctada imbricata Röding, 1798). The Atlantic Pearl Oyster may actually produce a gem-quality pearl.
Most of the valuable shells of the pearl oyster group, however, are found in the Persian Gulf, seas of Sri Lanka, and Australia; and to a lesser extent off Baja, California; Panama; and around Venezuela.
The Pteriidae oyster meat is said to be edible, but unpalatable.
The Atlantic Winged Oyster lives in shallow water from North Carolina to Brazil and around Bermuda. It uses its threadlike byssus to anchor itself to sea fans, rocks, oil platforms, wharf pilings, and other objects.