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Artifact of the Week: Abalone Shell

What is this? Where did it come from?

How have people used it?


What is this?

This is an abalone shell. Abalone are saltwater molluscs, like snails or clams, and have an ear-shaped shell with a lustrous coating called nacre, or "mother-of-pearl." It's shell also has holes through which it breathes. The abalone itself has a body, a foot with which it moves, and gills.

Where did it come from?

Abalone grow wild in the oceans of the world along coastal waters.

How have people used it?

Because of its iridescent shine, the shell of the abalone has been used by humans for decoration since long before recorded history. The foot muscle of abalone is used for food, and is farmed for this purpose. But in the wild, they are threatened: because of overfishing and ocean acidification, scientists warn that wild abalone may become extinct within 200 years.

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