This family of shells depicts the world we live in. Primitive people often used shell products to depict their position in life and in their ceremonies. Andean people looked upon these shells as symbols of power and prestige. Because of the variety of colors found in the different species of spondylus shells they were highly treasured. Red in particular was as favorite color used in their religious ceremonies probably because it resembled the color of blood that stands as the symbol of the essence of life. Even today certain colors of spondylus are fashioned into jewelry that only the rich or powerful can afford. Primitive tribes fought to control the areas were specific species of spondylus grew. Peru and Ecuador seemed to be in a constant battle in their early history as to who would control the Spondylus beds. Daniel H. Sandweiss, professor of anthropology, provides a comprehensive overview of the importance of the Spondylidae Family to the relationship between Peru and Ecuador in his article entitled, "The Return of the Native Symbol"
The Spondylus was more than just a native symbol to the people of the Myan culture. To them it was Mullu, Myan Gold, which was more precious to them than gold or silver. I read that at one time they crushed the red spondylus shell and formed a carpet which only royalty and their priests could walk on as they approached their altars or thrones. Could this have been the forerunner of our rolling out the red carpet for the movie stars and visiting dignitaries of today?
Two major differences between the sponydulus shell and most oyster shells is the manner in which they are hinged and the way they attach themselves. If you look at bivalves such as the common oyster you will notice the two shells are hinged ,or locked together, with what looks like two teeth. When you look at how the sponydulus shell is hinged you will notice a ball and a joint The other major difference is that the sponydulus cements itself to rocks and other shells rather than attaching by thread-like byssus. They are multiple eye creatures like the scallops.
Spondylus regius, Linne, 1758
Royal or Regal Thorny Oyster
When I look at this shell I can see that our world has not really changed that much. We might no longer seek to control shell beds but we fight to control beds of oil and other precious comities. Instead of shells we wear diamonds, emeralds and other precious jewels to designate our position in life or display our wealth. In reality things have not changed all that much.
We have a variety of different spondylus in our specimen shack.