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How do cultured pearls reproduce? Pearls 101

  • 2 min read

How do cultured pearls reproduce? Pearls 101

How many baby oysters will it take?  …..Thousands! And guess what?  Their reproduction cycle is truly random. Let us first understand how pearls happen in the wild.

What AM I? Oysters change sex from one season to another … confused? They must be!

OK let’s have a go! Certain oysters release their eggs or semen into the sea currents hence the sperm or eggs meet randomly in the sea. Once they have met they become …

I am fish food! The inseminated egg becomes larvae i.e. fish food for approximately one month, it grows into a tiny bivalve shell, it is interesting to note that nacre is already growing from the hinge on the inside of the shell, although the shell itself is still relatively gelatinous. Once it is one month old, this baby oyster which can produce a natural pearl must make the biggest decision of its life.

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How do pearl bearing oysters find a the best location

Where do I park? The one month old baby oyster needs to find a spot in its travels through the sea with optimum temperature, light and food conditions. Once it has selected a spot the oyster attaches itself to the chosen area tilted upwards, so it can filter its food easily, with a home brewed “glue” which is particularly strong, 90% calcium and 10 % protein, oysters tend to settle in huddles as protection from predators. Once the oyster has settled there is a catch …

I am stuck! Once a parking spot is chosen the young oyster can never move. And they feed by filtering what floats in the currents, oysters open and close thanks to the adductor muscle. From now on the oyster grows and the nacre layers get thicker, starting from the hinge going outward. Nacre [which is secreted by the epithelial cells] is essential as it hardens the shell and therefore makes the oyster less prone to being someone’s lunch.

How does a pearl farm get its oysters

The first attemptat catching baby oysters was relatively effective, they would place a group of twigs [rather like an old fashioned broom] in a spot they knew was sunny enough, with good food through traffic and the PERFECT temperature. The baby oysters shouted EUREKA, settled and … were transported to the farm, where in protected conditions they were allowed to grow until they reached maturity at 3 years old.

Practice makes perfect It is little wonder that nowadays the “mating” happens in large tanks, as this stops the added complication of the tide taking the eggs and semen to a totally different location, as it used to happen in the past with natural pearl beds, which could easily change to new locations every time.

Special Nurseries It is also little wonder that certain farms specialize in growing baby oysters, which are then sent to other farms in order to start the culturing process.


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