Molluscs in culture
Culture consists of the social behaviour and norms in human societies transmitted through social learning. Molluscs play a variety of roles in culture, including but not limited to art and literature, with both practical interactions—whether useful or harmful—and symbolic uses.
Practical interactions with molluscs range from their use as food, where species as diverse as snails and squid are eaten in many countries, to the employment of molluscs as shell money and to make dyestuffs and musical instruments, for personal adornment with seashells, pearls, or mother-of-pearl, as items to be collected, as fictionalised sea monsters, and as raw materials for craft items such as Sailor's Valentines. Some bivalves are used as bioindicators to monitor the health of marine and freshwater environments.
Harmful interactions with molluscs include the stings of cone snails and the venomous bites of certain octopuses; blue-ringed octopuses bite only when provoked, but their venom kills a quarter of the people bitten. Some snails are vectors of diseases such as schistosomiasis, a major tropical disease that infects some 200 million people; others are serious crop pests, and species such as the giant East African snail Lissachatina fulica have damaged ecosystems in areas where they have been introduced.
Mollusc shells have been widely used in art, whether carved directly, sometimes as cameos, or depicted in paintings. In popular culture, the snail is known for its stereotypical slowness, while the octopus and giant squid have featured in literature since classical times as monsters of the deep. Many-headed and tentacled monsters appear as the Gorgon and the Medusa of Greek mythology, and the kraken of Nordic legend. The taxonomist Carl Linnaeus named the Venus shell as Venus dione, for the goddess of love and her mother, and named its parts using overtly sexual descriptors.
- 1 Context
- 2 Useful interactions
- 3 Harmful interactions
- 4 Symbolic interactions
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 Sources
Culture consists of the social behaviour and norms found in human societies and transmitted through social learning. Cultural universals in all human societies include expressive forms like art, music, dance, ritual, religion, and technologies like tool usage, cooking, shelter, and clothing. The concept of material culture covers physical expressions such as technology, architecture and art, whereas immaterial culture includes principles of social organization, mythology, philosophy, literature, and science. This article describes the roles played by molluscs in human culture, so defined.
Seashells have been used for personal adornment, such as the strings of cowries in the traditional dress of the Kikuyu people of Kenya, and the formal dress of the Pearly Kings and Queens of London.
Most molluscs with shells can produce pearls, but only the pearls of bivalves and some gastropods, whose shells are lined with nacre, are valuable. The best natural pearls are produced by marine pearl oysters, Pinctada margaritifera and Pinctada mertensi, which live in the tropical and subtropical waters of the Pacific Ocean. Natural pearls form when a small foreign object gets stuck between the mantle and shell.
Pearls for use as jewellery are cultured by inserting either "seeds" or beads into oysters. The "seed" method uses grains of ground shell from freshwater mussels, and overharvesting for this purpose has endangered several freshwater mussel species in the southeastern United States. The pearl industry is so important in some areas, significant sums of money are spent on monitoring the health of farmed molluscs.
Seashells including the sacred chank or shankha Turbinella pyrum; "Triton's trumpet" Charonia tritonis; and the Queen Conch Strombus gigas have been used as musical instruments around the world.
For craft itemsEdit
Many species of mollusc, including gastropods such as whelks, bivalves such as scallops, cockles, mussels, and clams, and cephalopods such as octopuses and squids are collected or hunted for food.
Many recipes from around the world are based on molluscs from all three major orders. Among cephalopod recipes, both octopus and squid are used in dishes such as the popular fried calamari, and in sushi and sashimi. Among bivalve recipes, clams are made into soups called chowders, or served as a sauce with pasta in dishes such as spaghetti alle vongole, while mussels are widely eaten as moules marinieres, nowadays often with frites (chips). Gastropod recipes include escargot, terrestrial snails, in French cuisine, and whelks in cuisines around the world.
Tyrian or imperial purple, made from the ink glands of murex shells, "... fetched its weight in silver" in the fourth century BC, according to Theopompus. The discovery of large numbers of Murex shells on Crete suggests the Minoans may have pioneered the extraction of "imperial purple" during the Middle Minoan period in the 20th–18th centuries BC, centuries before the Tyrians.
Sea silk is a fine, rare, and valuable fabric produced from the long silky threads (byssus) secreted by several bivalve molluscs, particularly Pinna nobilis, to attach themselves to the sea bed. Procopius, writing on the Persian wars circa 550 CE, "stated that the five hereditary satraps (governors) of Armenia who received their insignia from the Roman Emperor were given chlamys (or cloaks) made from lana pinna. Apparently, only the ruling classes were allowed to wear these chlamys."
Peoples of the Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean, North America, Africa and the Caribbean have used shells as money, including Monetaria moneta, the money cowrie in preindustrial societies. However, these were not necessarily used for commercial transactions, but mainly as social status displays at important occasions, such as weddings. When used for commercial transactions, they functioned as commodity money, as a tradable commodity whose value differed from place to place, often as a result of difficulties in transport, and which was vulnerable to incurable inflation if more efficient transport or "goldrush" behaviour appeared. Among the Eastern Woodlands tribes of North America, shell beads known as wampum were kept on strings and used as money.
Bivalve molluscs are used as bioindicators to monitor the health of aquatic environments in both fresh water and the marine environments. Their population status and structure, physiology, behaviour and their levels of contamination with chemicals together provide a detailed indication of the status of the ecosystem. Because they are sessile, they serve as readily-monitored representatives of their environment.
Stings and bitesEdit
A few species of molluscs, including octopuses and cone snails, can sting or bite. Some present a serious risk to people handling them. However, deaths from jellyfish stings are ten times as common as those from mollusc bites.
All octopuses are venomous, but only a few species pose a significant threat to humans. Blue-ringed octopuses (Hapalochlaena) from Australia and New Guinea have a powerful venom and warning coloration. They bite humans only if severely provoked, but their venom kills a quarter of the people bitten. Another tropical species, Octopus apollyon, causes severe inflammation that can last for over a month even if treated correctly. The bite of O. rubescens can cause necrosis that lasts longer than one month if untreated, and headaches and weakness persisting for up to a week even if treated.
All marine cone snails are venomous and can sting when handled. Their venom is a complex mixture of toxins, some fast-acting and others slower but deadlier. Many painful stings have been reported, and a few fatalities. Only a few larger species of cone snails are likely to be seriously dangerous to humans. The effects of individual cone-shell toxins on victims' nervous systems are so precise as to be useful tools for research in neurology, and the small size of their molecules makes it easy to synthesize them.
Vectors of diseaseEdit
Molluscs are vectors of parasitic diseases such as schistosomiasis, a major tropical disease second only to malaria. It is caused by flukes, Schistosoma spp., and infects some 200 million people in 74 countries. The flukes have a complex life cycle with freshwater snails as intermediate hosts; people swimming or washing in the water are at risk of infection. Molluscs can also carry angiostrongyliasis, a disease caused by the worms of the Angiostrongylus spp., which can occur after voluntarily or inadvertently consuming raw snails, slugs, other mollusks and even unwashed fruits and vegetables.
Some snails and slugs are serious crop pests, and in new environments can unbalance local ecosystems. One such pest, the giant African snail Lissachatina fulica, has been introduced to many parts of Asia and islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, reaching the West Indies in the 1990s. The predatory snail Euglandina rosea was disastrously introduced in an attempt to control it, as the predator ignored A. fulica but extirpated several native snail species instead.
Monsters of the deepEdit
Cephalopod molluscs including the octopus and giant squid have featured as monsters of the deep since classical times. Giant squid are described by Aristotle (4th century BC) in his History of Animals and Pliny the Elder (1st century AD) in his Natural History. The Gorgon of Greek mythology may have been inspired by the octopus or squid, the severed head of Medusa representing the animal, the beak as the protruding tongue and fangs, and its tentacles as the snakes. The six-headed sea monster of the Odyssey, Scylla, may have had a similar origin. The Nordic legend of the kraken may also have derived from sightings of large cephalopods; the science fiction writer Jules Verne told a tale of a kraken-like monster in his 1870 novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.
Throughout the world, the nautilus is captured to carve the elegantly shaped shells, and for their nacreous inner shell layer, a pearl substitute. Mother-of-pearl or nacre, which lines some mollusc shells, is used to make organic jewellery. It has traditionally been inlaid into furniture and boxes, particularly in China. It has been used to decorate musical instruments, watches, pistols, fans and other products. Shells have been used in Southern Italy as a cheaper alternative to layered stone when carving cameos. In the fine art of the Italian Renaissance, Sandro Botticelli's c. 1486 The Birth of Venus depicts the goddess Venus emerging from the waves on a scallop shell. In the Dutch Golden Age, still life painters such as Adriaen Coorte often depicted ornate sea shells of varied kinds in their compositions.
Nautilus shell carved and painted with fanciful scenes of human figures and animals
Carved seashell miniatures
Still Life with Shells, Adriaen Coorte, 1697
Linnaeus's Venus shellEdit
In his 1758 Systema Naturae, and then in his 1771 Fundamenta Testaceologiae, the pioneering taxonomist Carl Linnaeus used a series of "disquieting[ly]" sexual terms to describe the Venus shell: vulva, anus, nates (buttocks), pubis, mons veneris, labia, hymen. Further, he named the species Venus dione, for Venus, the goddess of love, and Dione, her mother. The evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould called Linnaeus's description "one of the most remarkable paragraphs in the history of systematics". Some later naturalists found the terms used by Linnaeus uncomfortable; an 1803 review commented that "a few of these terms however strongly they may be warranted by the similitudes and analogies which they express, ... are not altogether reconcilable with the delicacy proper to be observed in ordinary discourse", while the 1824 Supplement to the Encyclopædia Britannica criticised Linnaeus for "indulg[ing] in obscene allusions."
- Macionis, John J.; Gerber, Linda Marie (2011). Sociology. Pearson Prentice Hall. p. 53. ISBN 978-0137001613. OCLC 652430995.
- "Home page". The Conchological Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
- White, Stewart Edward (2015). African Camp Fires. Read Books. p. 66. ISBN 978-1-4733-7064-7.
- Swinnerton, Jo (2004). The London Companion. Robson. p. 18. ISBN 978-1-861-05799-0.
- Ruppert, pp. 300–343
- Ruppert, pp. 367–403
- Jones, J.B.; Creeper, J. (April 2006). "Diseases of Pearl Oysters and Other Molluscs: a Western Australian Perspective". Journal of Shellfish Research. 25 (1): 233–238. doi:10.2983/0730-8000(2006)25[233:DOPOAO]2.0.CO;2.
- Novella, R. (1991). "SHELL TRUMPETS FROM WESTERN MEXICO". Papers from the Institute of Archaeology. Institute of Archaeology, University College London. 2: 42–51. doi:10.5334/pia.16.
- "Conch Shell Trumpet (Davui)". Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
- Montagu, Jeremy (2007). Origins and Development of Musical Instruments. Scarecrow Press. p. 103. ISBN 978-0-8108-7770-2.
- "Shellwork Sydney Harbour Bridge". National Museum of Australia Collections. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
- Garrow, J.S.; Ralph, A.; James, W.P.T. (2000). Human Nutrition and Dietetics. Elsevier Health Sciences. p. 370. ISBN 978-0-443-05627-7.
- "China catches almost 11m tonnes of molluscs in 2005". FAO. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
- James Arnold Higginbotham, Piscinae: artificial fishponds in Roman Italy (University of North Carolina Press, 1997), p. 247, note 44 online; Cynthia J. Bannon, "Servitudes for Water Use in the Roman Suburbium," Historia 50 (2001), pp. 47–50. For more on these early efforts, see Sergius Orata.
- Taggart, Stewart (25 January 2002). "Abalone Farming on a Boat". Wired. Archived from the original on 16 August 2014. Retrieved 16 August 2014.
- Westaway, Cameron; Norriss, Jeff (October 1997). "Abalone Aquaculture in Western Australia" (PDF). Fisheries Management Paper. Fisheries Western Australia. 109. ISSN 0819-4327.
- "Mussel Culture in British Columbia". BC Shellfish Growers Association.
- Calta, Marialisa (28 August 2005). "Mussels on Prince Edward Island". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 July 2016.
- Northern Economics. "The Economic Impact of Shellfish Aquaculture in Washington, Oregon and California" (PDF). Pacific Shellfish Institute. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
- Kurlansky, Mark (2006). The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell. Ballantine Books. p. 49. ISBN 978-0-345-47638-8.
- "Mollusk recipes (2,903 recipes)". Cookpad. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
- "Mollusks". Food & Wine. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
These amazing recipes include foie gras steamed clams and cavatelli with mussels, lillet, and dill.
- "Shellfish recipes". BBC. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
- Frank, Matthew Gavin. "The origin of an appetizer: A look at the creation of calamari". Salon. Retrieved 1 September 2014.
- Sato, Kaz; Fraioli, James O. (2008). The Complete Idiot's Guide to Sushi and Sashimi. DK Publishing. p. 10. ISBN 978-1-4406-3657-8.
- "History of Chowder, History of Clam Chowder, History of Fish Chowder". Whatscookingamerica.net. Retrieved 2007-12-01.
- "Spaghetti alle Vongole (Spaghetti with Clams)". Italian Tourism. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
- Spoiden, Stéphane (2001). "The Betrayal of Moules-frites". In Schehr, Lawrence R.; Weiss, Allen S. (eds.). French Food: On the Table, On the Page, and in French Culture. Routledge. p. 162 and throughout. ISBN 978-0415936286.
- "Snails as Food". Snail World. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
- May, Gareth (10 July 2014). "Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?". The Independent. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
- The fourth-century BC historian Theopompus, cited by Athenaeus (12:526) around 200 BC, according to Gulick, C.B. (1941). Athenaeus, The Deipnosophists. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-99380-8.
- Reese, D.S. (1987). "Palaikastro Shells and Bronze Age Purple-Dye Production in the Mediterranean Basin". Annual of the British School of Archaeology at Athens. 82: 201–6. doi:10.1017/s0068245400020438.
- Stieglitz, R.R. (1994). "The Minoan Origin of Tyrian Purple". Biblical Archaeologist. 57 (1): 46–54. doi:10.2307/3210395. JSTOR 3210395.
- Webster's Third New International Dictionary (Unabridged) 1976. G. & C. Merriam Co., p. 307.
- Turner, R.D.; Rosewater, J. (June 1958). "The Family Pinnidae in the Western Atlantic". Johnsonia. 3 (38): 294.
- van Damme, Ingrid. "Cowry Shells, a trade currency". Museum of the National Bank of Belgium. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
- Maurer, B. (October 2006). "The Anthropology of Money" (PDF). Annual Review of Anthropology. 35: 15–36. doi:10.1146/annurev.anthro.35.081705.123127. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-08-16.
- Hogendorn, J.; Johnson, M. (2003). The Shell Money of the Slave Trade. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521541107. Particularly chapters "Boom and slump for the cowrie trade" (pages 64–79) and "The cowrie as money: transport costs, values and inflation" (pages 125–147)
- Dubin, Lois Sherr. North American Indian Jewelry and Adornment: From Prehistory to the Present. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1999: 170–171. ISBN 0-8109-3689-5.
- Jacobs, Jaap. The Colony of New Netherland: A Dutch Settlement in Seventeenth-century America. Cornell University Press, 2009. pg. 14
- Geary, Theresa Flores. The Illustrated Bead Bible. Kensington Publications, 2008: 305. ISBN 978-1-4027-2353-7.
- Université Bordeaux; et al. "MolluSCAN eye project". Retrieved 28 January 2017.
- Alafaci, A. "Blue ringed octopus". Australian Venom Research Unit. Retrieved 2008-10-03.
- Williamson, J.A.; Fenner, P.J.; Burnett, J.W.; Rifkin, J. (1996). Venomous and Poisonous Marine Animals: A Medical and Biological Handbook. UNSW Press. pp. 65–68. ISBN 978-0-86840-279-6.
- Concar, D. (19 October 1996). "Doctor snail—Lethal to fish and sometimes even humans, cone snail venom contains a pharmacopoeia of precision drugs". New Scientist. Retrieved 2008-10-03.
- Anderson, R.C. (1995). "Aquarium husbandry of the giant Pacific octopus". Drum and Croaker. 26: 14–23.
- Brazzelli, V.; Baldini, F.; Nolli, G.; Borghini, F.; Borroni, G. (March 1999). "Octopus apollyon bite". Contact Dermatitis. 40 (3): 169–70. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0536.1999.tb06025.x. PMID 10073455.
- Anderson, R.C. (1999). "An octopus bite and its treatment". The Festivus. 31: 45–46.
- Livett, B. "Cone Shell Mollusc Poisoning, with Report of a Fatal Case". Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Melbourne.
- Haddad Junior, V.; Paula Neto, J. O. B. D.; Cobo, V. L. J. (September–October 2006). "Venomous mollusks: The risks of human accidents by conus snails (gastropoda: Conidae) in Brazil". Revista da Sociedade Brasileira de Medicina Tropical. 39 (5): 498–500. doi:10.1590/S0037-86822006000500015. PMID 17160331.
- Cerullo, M.M.; Rotman, J.L.; Wertz, M. (2003). The Truth about Dangerous Sea Creatures. Chronicle Books. p. 10. ISBN 978-0-8118-4050-7.
- "The Carter Center Schistosomiasis Control Program". The Carter Center. Retrieved 2008-10-03.
- Brown, D.S. (1994). Freshwater Snails of Africa and Their Medical Importance. CRC Press. p. 305. ISBN 978-0-7484-0026-3.
- Barker, G.M. (2002). Molluscs As Crop Pests. CABI Publications. ISBN 978-0-85199-320-1.
- Civeyrel, L.; Simberloff, D. (October 1996). "A tale of two snails: is the cure worse than the disease?". Biodiversity and Conservation. 5 (10): 1231–1252. doi:10.1007/BF00051574.
- Pamatier, Robert Allen (1995). Speaking of Animals: A Dictionary of Animal Metaphors. Greenwood. p. 351. ISBN 978-0-313-29490-7.
- "Slug". Oxford Dictionaries. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
2. A slow, lazy person. "‘Even though you're dying to bitchslap your clueless roommate, loser boyfriend or loathsome slug of a boss, play nice.’"
- Aristotle. N.d. Historia animalium.
- Ellis, R. 1998. The Search for the Giant Squid. Lyons Press (London).
- Pliny the Elder. n.d. Naturalis historia.
- The Search for the Giant Squid: Chapter One. The New York Times.
- Wilk, Stephen R. (2000). Medusa:Solving the Mystery of the Gorgon. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199887736.
- Hogenboom, Melissa (12 December 2014). "Are massive squid really the sea monsters of legend?". BBC. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
- Nijman, Vincent; Lee, Paige Biqi (December 2016). "Trade in nautilus and other large marine molluscs as ornaments and decorations in Bali, Indonesia". ResearchGate. 64.
- De Angelis, Patricia (2012). "Assessing the impact of international trade on chambered nautilus". Geobios. 45: 5–11. doi:10.1016/j.geobios.2011.11.005.
- Freitas, B.; Krishnasamy, K. (2016). An Investigation into the Trade of Nautilus. TRAFFIC.
- Hodin, Jessica (20 October 2010). "Contraband Chic: Mother-of-Pearl Items Sell With Export Restrictions". New York Observer.
- Guglielmo Martinello, Agostina Pizzocri, Giovanna Rosselli (2003). Musei dell'artigianato: oltre 300 collezioni in Italia (in Italian). Milano: Touring Club Italiano. ISBN 9788836528189
- Mack, Charles R. (2002),"Botticelli's Venus: Antique Allusions and Medicean Propaganda," Explorations in Renaissance Culture, 28, 1 (Winter), 2002, 1–31.
- Seymour Slive, Dutch Painting, 1600-1800, Yale UP, 1995, ISBN 0-300-07451-4, page 319 and passim
- "Da Costa and the Venus dione: The Obscenity of Shell Description". Retrieved 19 May 2015. From the Encyclopædia Romana by James Grout.
- Linnaeus, Carl (1758). Systema Naturae (10th ed.). pp. 684–685.
- Linnaeus, Carl (1767). Systema Naturae (12th ed.). pp. 1128–1129.
- Gould, Stephen Jay (1995). "The Anatomy Lesson: The Teachings of Naturalist Mendes da Costa, a Sephardic Jew in King George's Court". Natural History. 104 (12): 10–15, 62–63.