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Scientists are first to 'unlock' the mystery of creating cultured pearls from the queen conch
Date:11/3/2009

conch pearls were unsuccessful, probably because of the animal's sensitivity to traditional pearl seeding techniques and its complex shell. The spiral shape of the shell makes it virtually impossible to reach the gonad, one of the pearl-forming portions in pearl oysters, without endangering the animal's life.

"Perhaps the most significant outcome from our research is that the technique we have developed does not require sacrificing the conch in the process," said Davis. "The 100 percent survival rate of queen conch after seeding and the fact that it will produce another pearl after the first pearl is harvested will make this culturing process more efficient and environmentally sustainable for commercial application."

Survival of the animal is critical because commercial fishing has depleted the once-abundant wild populations of queen conch, and they are now considered a commercially threatened species in Florida and throughout the Caribbean.

There are basically two types of cultured pearls: nucleated (beaded) and non-nucleated (non-beaded). Nucleated cultured pearls are produced by inserting a piece of mantle tissue from a donor mollusk and a nucleus, usually a spherical piece of shell, into the body of a recipient mollusk. Non-nucleated pearls are produced by grafting only a piece or pieces of mantle tissue, and no bead is inserted.

"We used two different seeding techniques to induce pearl formation in the queen conch," said Acosta-Salmn. "One was a modification of the conventional technique used to produce cultured pearls in freshwater mussels, and the other was a modification of the conventional technique used in marine pearl oysters."

Conch pearls are formed by concentric layers of fibrous crystals, and this layering often produces the desired flame structure, which is characteristic of conch pearls. The pearls have a porcelain finish and luster like the interior of the conch shell, and come in a wide variety
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Contact: Gisele Galoustian
ggaloust@fau.edu
561-297-2010
Florida Atlantic University
Source:Eurekalert  

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