Your Scallops Are Probably Watching You

Scallops have as many as 200 eyes at the tips of their tentacles, covering as much as a 250-degree arc.

NOT THE ONES ON YOUR DINNER TABLE (presumably). But scallops you might be eyeing  during a dive may well be looking back at you, possibly contemplating an escape with a sort of jet propulsion created by clapping their shells together.

And, they see through as many as 200 grain-sized, complex eyes located at the tips of tentacles extended past their shells, each resembling the structure of a reflecting telescope with a tiny concave mirror.


Science has long known about the singular architecture of scallop eyes but had been unable to determine how they worked due to technological limitations. With the use of a new device called a cryo-electron microscope, the research team from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and Lund University in Sweden was able to study their structure down to the molecular level.


They reported their research in The image-forming mirror in the eye of the scallop in the November 30th issue of Science Magazine.  A more-reader-friendly account of the study can be found in The Scallop Sees with Space-Age Eyes – Hundreds of Them by science writer Carl Zimmer in the New York Times.


For more information about scallops and their bivalve mollusk cousins, oysters, clams and mussels, see Bivalve Mollusks: Oysters & Scallops & Clams, Oh My!