Piddocks – are anything but boring
PIDDOCKS AS KING-MAKERS?
Now, here is a fascinating story: piddocks in the genus Pholas are known to phosphoresce, or glow with a greenish light, in their burrows. That is delightful enough! But the 1905 edition of ‘The Victorian Naturalist’, the Journal and Magazine of the Field Naturalists’ Club of Victoria (Vol XXI), contains this startling announcement: “Pliny spoke of luminescence in the mouths of people who ate Pholas, the rock-boring shell-fish, and of such importance is this phenomenon that it is even said to have gained the first king of all Scotland his throne.”
If this is true, what a huge role for a humblemollusc! Sadly, I can find no more information to back up the claim. But that doesn’t stop my imagination from conjuring an interesting scene, perhaps at a banquet or even on a windswept rocky shore where the knowledge of ‘magical’ creatures might have given a vital edge to an early contender for Scotland’s crown. I shall look atpiddocks in a whole new light from now on!
Piddocks aren’t the only molluscs capable of making holes in rock. Several others, along with worms and sponges, are described by Jessica Winder in this wonderful post on her Nature Blog, illustrated with some superb photos taken on beaches in the south of England. She also writes about piddocks, and has published some great photos of the creatures in action.
The wonderful thing about piddock art is that every piece is unique. I have several treasured examples – one with a shell still inside, which rattles when you shake it. If you tilt it, you can just see the tip of the piddock shell, but the burrow entrance is too narrow for it to drop out.
Piddocks are also known as Angelwings, which I think is a lovely name: you can immediately see why, when their shell is opened out. There are many species of piddocks, but the one that is native to British shores is the Common Piddock (Pholas dactylus). Surprisingly, it can grow to 15 cm in length.
Several other species of mollusc, along with some worms and sponges, can also create holes in solid rock. These examples may have been carved by a number of different species.