The Red Abalone

The iridescent inside surface of a red abalone...
Image via Wikipedia

Abalones live where the rocks are, near shore or sometimes in quite deep water, and move around on a large, muscular foot.  This is the best reason I can think of for not finding them in Florida – not many rocks.  I’ve never seen one here, nor are they mentioned in my seashell ID book.

They are collected to use as food and of course the shell is used for it’s ornamental value.

The Red Abalone (Haliotis rufescens) is the largest of the species growing to 12 inches (30.5cm) long.  The outer shell is dark, brick red and the inside has a beautiful iridescence.

The Abalone is prone to Withering disease that causes it to eat itself which causes the muscular foot they use to hold onto rocks, to wither, which in turn causes them to fall off and eventually starve to death, unless a predator gets them first.

The Abalone Shell Family

Image by artolog via Flickr

Probably you have heard of, or own, abalone jewelry and it comes from the large Abalone shell.

Abalones have an iridescent shell (inside) that is collected to use for making jewelry and other things.  Because they are much sought after for these uses, certain species have been greatly depleted.

The single characteristic of the Abalone shell that stands out most prominently when collecting shells, would be the row of holes along one edge of the bowl shaped shell.

Many can be found along the Pacific area of North America, including the largest species, but this mollusk is also abundant around Australia and New Zealand and in western tropical areas of the Pacific.