Pinctada albina

Pinctada albina (Lamarck, 1819)

Distinguishing Characteristics

  • P. albina is known as the smaller Australian Oyster. In the 1960's, studies revealed that there were local differences between the color and size of the shell. Because the differences were determined to be geographical discontinuities, the species was divided into two subspecies: P. albina albina (Lamarck) and P. a. sugillata (Reeve), which represent the western and eastern subspecies.
  • The species is small, only three to four inches in diameter.
  • The shells are either grayish or greenish yellow and surrounded by a few indistinct brownish-green radial bands.
  • Nacre is tinted yellowish-green, with a slight border of pale yellow, and has brown markings.
Pinctada albina with cultured blister

Shell of Pinctada albina albina with a cultured blister pearl.

Ecology and Habitat
  • Although the population stretches along the northern coast up the Great Barrier Reef, P. albina is predominately found in Shark Bay, Western Australia. P. albina strives in relatively shallow waters, which contributed to it being the first Australian pearl oyster discovered.
  • When European adventurers first recruited Aboriginals to collect pearl oysters, they found P. albina, as it was accessible from wading or swimming offshore.
  • After 1819, Australians began scavenging in deeper water to acquire the larger Australian oyster, P. maxima. The greater depth of P. maxima required divers with boats in order to gather pearls.
  • The distribution of P. albina reaches Northern Australia, from Indonesia through the Philippines and up to Micronesia. The widespread distribution is equal to that of P. maxima.

P. albina in pearls
  • Pearls from this species are only occasionally found. They are yellow and small.
  • The shell's nacre is thin, and their size is small, making them of little commercial value. However, before the introduction of the Mississippi shell, their ideal shape for buttons made "Shark Bay" shells critical to the mother of pearl Industry in the 19th century.
  • Today, the species is used for culturing blister pearls (Mabe pearls).

Common SynonymsP. fimbriata (Reeve 1857)
P. sugillata (Reeve 1857)
P. irradians (Reeve 1857)
P. reeveana (Dunker 1872)
P. carchariarum (Jameson 1901)
P. perrutila (Irelade 1939)
P. placunoides (Irelade 1939)
Popular NamesShark Bay Shell
Arafura Shell
Japan Amami gai
Primary SourceShark Bay, Australia
Other geographical locationsChina, Vietnam, Korea
P. albina in pearlsCurrently used for blister pearls

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