Spondylus is a genus of bivalve molluscs, the only genus in the family
Spondylidae. They are known in English as spiny oysters (though they
are not, in fact, oysters) .
2 Evolutionary history
8 External links
Spondylus varius in Mayotte.
The many species of
Spondylus vary considerably in appearance and
range. They are grouped in the same superfamily as the scallops. They
are not closely related to true oysters (family Ostreidae); however,
they do share some habits such as cementing themselves to rocks rather
than attach themselves by a byssus. The two halves of their shells are
joined with a ball-and-socket type of hinge rather than with a toothed
hinge, as is more common in other bivalves. They also still retain
vestigial anterior and posterior auricles ("ears", triangular shell
flaps) along the hinge line, a common feature of scallops though not
Like all scallops,
Spondylus spp. have multiple eyes around the edges
of their shells, and have relatively well-developed nervous systems.
Their nervous ganglia are concentrated in the visceral region, with
recognisable optic lobes connected to the eyes.
Spondylus appeared in the
Mesozoic era and it is known in
the fossil records from the
Triassic Cassian beds in Italy (235 to 232
years ago) on. About 40 extinct species are known.
Fossil valve of
Spondylus crassicosta from the
Pliocene of Italy
These molluscs can be found in fossil shells all over the world. They
are present in cretaceaous rocks in the Fort Worth Formation of Texas
and in the Trent River Formation of
Vancouver as well as in other
parts of North America.
Spiny oysters are found close in all subtropical and (especially)
tropical seas, usually close to the coasts.
Spondylus adults are filter feeders that live cemented to hard
substrates, a characteristic they share, by convergent evolution, with
true oysters and jewel boxes. Like the latter, they are protected by
spines and a layer of epibionts and, like the former, they can produce
pearls. The type of substrate depends on the species: many only
attach to coral, and the largest diversity of species is found in
tropical coral reefs; others, (particularly S. spinosus) however,
easily adapt to man-made structures and have become important invasive
species. Other still are often found attached to other shells, perhaps
the most common belonging to the genus Malleus.
Archaeological evidence indicates that people in
trading the shells of S. gaederopus to make bangles and other
ornaments throughout much of the
Neolithic period. The main use
period appears to have been from around 5350 to 4200 BC. The shells
were harvested from the
Aegean Sea but were transported far into the
center of the continent. In the
LBK and Lengyel cultures, Spondylus
shells from the
Aegean Sea were worked into bracelets and belt
buckles. Over time styles changed with the middle neolithic favouring
generally larger barrel-shaped beads and the late neolithic smaller
flatter and disk shaped beads. Significant finds of jewelry made
Spondylus shells were made at the Varna Necropolis. During the
Neolithic the use of
Spondylus in grave goods appears to have
been limited to women and children.
S. crassisquama is found off the coast of
Ecuador and has
been important to
Andean peoples since pre-Columbian times, serving as
both an offering to the
Pachamama and as currency. In fact, much
like in Europe, the
Spondylus shells also reached far and wide, as
pre-Hispanic Ecuadorian peoples traded them with peoples as far north
Mexico and as far south as the central Andes. The
Moche people of ancient
Peru regarded the sea and animals as sacred;
Spondylus shells in their art and depicted
Spondylus were also harvested from the Gulf of
California and traded to tribes through
Mexico and the American
Even today, there are collectors of
Spondylus shells, and a commercial
market exists for them. Additionally, some species (especially S.
americanus) are sometimes found in the saltwater aquariums.
S. limbatus was commonly ground for mortar in Central America, giving
raise to its junior synonym, "S. calcifer".
Some Mediterranean species are edible and, in particular S.
gaederopus, is commonly consumed in Sardinia. Tropical species,
however, tend to bioaccumulate saxitoxin.
Spondylidae taxonomy has undergone many revisions, mostly due to
the fact that identification is traditionally based on the shell only,
and this is highly variable. To add to this, while some shallow-water
species are extremely common, at least two deep-water ones are known
from a single specimen, while a third (S. gravis) was only
rediscovered after 77 years. At least another common species (S.
regius) has a different shell when it grows in deep water.
Pacific thorny oyster, S. crassisquama Lamarck, 1819, from the Gulf of
The interior of two fossil valves of
Spondylus from the
Cat's tongue oyster,
Spondylus linguaefelis Sowerby, 1847, from Hawaii
A view of the colorful mantle edges of a live thorny oyster from East
Timor: The eyes can be seen on the fringe between the mantle and the
Spondylus gaederopus from the
Pliocene of Cyprus
S. americanus Hermann, 1781 — Atlantic thorny oyster
S. anacanthus Mawe, 1823 — nude thorny oyster
S. asiaticus Chenu, 1844
S. asperrimus G. B. Sowerby II, 1847
S. aucklandicus P. Marshall, 1918 †
S. avramsingeri Kovalis, 2010
S. butleri Reeve, 1856
S. candidus Lamarck, 1819
S. clarksoni Limpus, 1992
S. concavus Deshayes in Maillard, 1863
S. crassisquama Lamarck, 1819
S. croceus Schreibers, 1793
S. darwini Jousseaume, 1882
S. cumingii Sowerby, 1847
S. deforgesi Lamprell & Healy, 2001
S. depressus Fulton, 1915
S. eastae Lamprell, 1992
S. echinatus Schreibers, 1793
S. echinatus Schreibers, 1793
S. erectospinus Habe,1973
S. exiguus Lamprell & Healy, 2001
S. exilis G. B. Sowerby III, 1895
S. fauroti Jousseaume, 1888
S. foliaceus Schreibers, 1793
S. gaederopus Linnaeus, 1758 — European thorny oyster
S. gloriandus Melvill & Standen, 1907
S. gloriosus Dall, Bartsch & Rehder, 1938
S. gravis Fulton, 1915
S. groschi Lamprell & Kilburn, 1995
S. gussoni O. G Costa, 1829
S. heidkeae Lamprell & Healy, 2001
S. imperialis Chenu, 1843
S. lamarckii Chenu, 1845
S. layardi Reeve, 1856
S. leucacanthus Broderip, 1833
S. limbatus G. B. Sowerby II, 1847
S. linguaefelis Sowerby, 1847
S. maestratii Lamprell & Healy, 2001
S. mimus Dall, Bartsch & Rehder, 1938
S. morrisoni Damarco, 2015
S. multimuricatus Reeve, 1856
S. multisetosus Reeve, 1856
S. nicobaricus Schreibers, 1793
S. occidens Sowerby, 1903
S. ocellatus Reeve, 1856
S. orstomi Lamprell & Healy, 2001
S. ostreoides E. A. Smith, 1885
S. pratii Parth, 1990
S. proneri Lamprell & Healy, 2001
S. raoulensis W. R. B. Oliver, 1915
S. reesianus G. B. Sowerby III, 1903
S. regius Linnaeus, 1758 — regal thorny oyster
S. rippingalei Lamprell & Healy, 2001
S. rubicundus Reeve, 1856
S. senegalensis Schreibers, 1793
S. setiger Reeve, 1846
S. sinensis Schreibers, 1793
S. spinosus Schreibers, 1793
S. squamosus Schreibers, 1793
S. tenellus Reeve, 1856
S. tenuis Schreibers, 1793
S. tenuispinosus G. B. Sowerby II, 1847
S. tenuitas Garrard, 1966
S. varius Sowerby,1829
S. variegatus Schreibers, 1793
S. versicolor Schreibers, 1793
S. victoriae G. B. Sowerby II, 1860
S. violacescens Lamarck, 1819
S. virgineus Reeve, 1856
S. visayensis Poppe & Tagaro, 2010
S. zonalis Lamarck, 1819
^ Finsley, Chalres. 1999. A Field Guide to the Fossils of Texas. Gulf
Publishing. Lanham, Maryland. plate 55.
^ Ludvigsen, Rolf & Beard, Graham. 1997. West Coast Fossils: A
Guide to the Ancient Life of
Vancouver Island. pg. 104
^ WingYan Ho, Joyce; Zhou, Chunhui. "Natural
Pearls Reportedly from a
Spondylus Species ("Thorny" Oyster)". GIA. Gemological Institute of
America. Retrieved 24 February 2018.
^ a b c d Gardelková-Vrtelová, Anna; Golej, Marián (2013). "The
necklace from the Strážnice site in the Hodonín district (Czech
Republic). A contribution on the subject of
Spondylus jewelry in the
Neolithic". Documenta Praehistorica. Znanstvena založba Filozofske
fakultete Univerze v Ljubljani. 40: 265–277. doi:10.4312/dp.40.21.
Retrieved 2 December 2015.
^ Carter, Benjamin. "
Spondylus in South American Prehistory" in
Spondylus in Prehistory: New Data and Approaches. Ed. Fotis Ifantidis
and Marianna Nikolaidou. BAR International Series 2216. Oxford:
Archaeopress, 2011: 63-89.
^ Shimada, Izumi. “Evolution of
Andean Diversity: Regional
Formations (500 B.C.E-C.E. 600). The Cambridge History of the Native
People of the Americas. Vol. III, pt. 1. Ed. Frank Salomon &
Stuart B. Schwartz. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999:
350-517, esp. "Mesoamerican-Northwest South American Connections", pp.
^ Katherine Berrin and Larco Museum. The Spirit of Ancient Peru:
Treasures from the Museo Arqueológico Rafael Larco Herrera. New York:
Thames and Hudson, 1997.
^ Montojo, U.M.; Sakamoto, S.; Cayme, M.F.; Gatdula, N.C.; Furio,
E.F.; Relox, J.R.; Kodama, M. (2006). "Remarkable difference in toxin
accumulation of paralytic shellfish poisoning toxins among bivalve
species exposed to Pyrodinium bahamense var. compressum bloom in
Masinloc bay, Philippines". Toxicon. 48: 85. access-date=
requires url= (help)
^ WoRMS Editorial Board. "Spondylus". World Register of Marine
Species. doi:10.14284/170. Retrieved 19 February 2018.
^ Lamprell, Kevin L. (May 1998). "Recent
Spondylus species from the
Middle East and adjacent regions, with the description of two new
species". Vita Marina. 45 (1-2): 58. access-date= requires
^ Poppe, Guido T. "
Spondylus regius, deep water". Shell Encyclopedia.
Retrieved 19 February 2018.
Spondylidae pictures of the shells of most extant species.
shells at the Rotterdam Natural History Museum
Spondylus Session Abstracts on
Spondylus research at the 13th Meeting
of the European Association of Archaeologists at Zadar, Croatia,
Spondylus from the website of the Gladys Archerd
Shell Collection at Washington State University Tri-Cities Natural
Article on "notched"
Neolithic artifacts in Europe
A full and constantly updated bibliography on
Spondylus spp. in
Aegean, Balkan, European and American contexts
Lamprell, Kevin L.: Spondylus: Spiny
Oyster Shells of the World, E. J.
Brill, Leiden, 1987 ISBN 90 04 0839 4