Table of Contents
- Pp. i-iii (3)Riccardo Cattaneo-Vietti, Egidio Trainito and Mauro Doneddu
Foreword by Nathalie Yonow
- Pp. vRiccardo Cattaneo-Vietti, Mauro Doneddu and Egidio Trainito
Foreword by Angelo Mojetta
- Pp. viiRiccardo Cattaneo-Vietti, Mauro Doneddu and Egidio Trainito
Import and Export: Successes and Flops
- Pp. 239-255 (17)Riccardo Cattaneo-Vietti, Mauro Doneddu and Egidio TrainitoView Abstract
Dangerous Molluscs? Myths and Reality
- Pp. 257-272 (16)Riccardo Cattaneo-Vietti, Mauro Doneddu and Egidio TrainitoView Abstract
- Pp. 317-336 (20)Riccardo Cattaneo-Vietti, Mauro Doneddu and Egidio Trainito
- Pp. 337-344 (8)Riccardo Cattaneo-Vietti, Mauro Doneddu and Egidio Trainito
Foreword by Nathalie Yonow
Man has always had a close association with molluscs and their shells, be it for
nutrition or inspiration, for art and culture, or for more practical purposes such as
bartering, currency, and medicine. This association goes back to the Palaeolithic,
the beginnings of Man: snails and bivalves were good renewable sources of pro-
tein, and their shells could be utilised in many ways: early Man wasted nothing.
Over time, these shells not only played an important role in the material survival
of Man, but also allowed him to develop his culture, with symbolic values of great
importance. At the dawn of history, shells assumed mythical meanings and rituals,
objects of life and death, of high symbolic value, status, and magic.
Molluscs produce wonderful shells, and these shells display shapes and designs
that have been and still are objects of astonishment for all, and sources of inspira-
tion for artists of all epochs. The sciences, medicine, religion, literature, jewellery,
world trade, and gastronomy all owe much to these producers of shells. They in-
clude species very familiar to us, such as garden snails and nautilus, mussels and
oysters, limpets and clams, and so many others. The contribution that molluscs
have made, and continue to make to both experimental biology and medicine is
immense. Gastropods and squids are still used as lab animals: they seem to have
been designed by Nature itself to facilitate research on neurology and biochemis-
try. Some species even produce chemicals which may be used by pharmacology
in the cure of disease, and the shells themselves are currently being investigated
for the repair of damaged cells causing paralysis (Centre for Paralysis Research at
the Purdue School of Veterinary Medicine, Indiana, USA). The shells of molluscs
from all over the world, land, lakes, and ocean, contain very detailed imprints of
past climate change and with isotope analysis, these signals have been extracted to
demonstrate long-term climate variations.
This book is not simply a treatise of malacology: it is a tribute to a group of or-
ganisms that has always fascinated and inspired Man, accompanying him
throughout his history, a group of organisms that has had and continues to play an
important role in the cultural evolution of Man. The book is not full of scientific
detail, but instead full of prose and poetry, stories and anecdotes based on histori-
cal facts, beautifully illustrated with images of ancient and modern artefacts cele-
brating the amazing world of shells.
Swansea University, Wales, UK
Foreword by Angelo Mojetta
A first thought springs to mind after reading this essay by Riccardo Cattaneo-
Vietti: the molluscs have finally been vindicated, all the attention they deserve,
has been obtained. Although often poorly evaluated, there is no other group of or-
ganisms which has interacted with Man since the dawn of civilization, and in such
an extensive and widespread manner. Flipping, even summarily, through these
pages, you will realize that molluscs have accompanied humanity in the course of
his evolution, and perhaps even saved a part of it from the hunger, when their edi-
bility was discovered and appreciated. Honour and glory to shellfish, then.
A second thought: molluscs can stimulate all the five human senses: a very rare, if
not unique peculiarity. Does this seem a risky assertion? Absolutely not: try think-
ing of your personal experience, when some molluscs crossed your path, and you
will discover that they have interacted with you or you with them more often than
you think, and always through one or more of your senses. The first contact with
shellfish is certainly through taste. To find this out, just browse a cookbook or re-
member what was the last shellfish or squid you ate. Closely related to taste, then,
is the sense of smell. It is a sore point. More than the taste, molluscs can stimulate
our dis-taste. If fresh or well-cooked shellfish emit pleasant aromas, very different
from each other and difficult to describe: the iodized salty oysters, the abalones
softness, the scallop delicacy, the fleshiness of the octopus, the toughness of the
muricids. Big differences in flavours, that make each species unique. Not exactly
the same occurs when their meat begins to decompose and putrefy. Try to forget
some mussels for few days in your car and then you will understand what I mean!
However, the mollusc, before being eaten and appreciated, must be collected: so
sight is involved, a sense really stimulated by shellfish. Watch a shell, not just to
recognize it, but to admire its shape and infinite varieties of colours. This is, and
has been, the delight of generations of collectors, whose age ranges from five to
one hundred. But the form also urges the touch, and there is no doubt that to hold
a pearl, a cowrie, or a Nautilus shell can be the source of great enjoyment for eve-
ryone. If you have read this far, you will note that there is still a last sense: hearing.
To find out in detail about this, just read the Chapter 3, but maybe you just have
think back to the last time you listened to the murmurs of the sea imprisoned in
the shell whorl, holding its opening close to your ear. It is true that the science ex-
plains that is not the sound of the sea, but it is so much more fun to believe it.It
would be a shame to surrender to physical law, avoiding the chance to dream.
Molluscs, apparently, also serve this purpose.
Marine biologist and journalist, Italy
All the facts in natural history, taken by themselves, have no value, but are barren
like a single sex. But marry it to human history, and is full of life.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82), Address on Nature (1836)
From the Paleolithic age to present, Molluscs have always played a role, often un-
known, in History.
Their shells show shapes and designs that have been and are still object of aston-
ishment for all and source of inspiration for the artists of all time. But not only:
sciences, medicine, religion, literature, art, jewellery, world trades, and, of course,
gastronomy, owe much to these producers of shells. They include species very
familiar to us, such as garden snails and octopuses, mussels and oysters, clams
and squids, others strange and unknown.
Today, the shellfish are major food resources for many populations: their demand
from the international market is always in growth: they are also intensively
farmed both at sea and on land, taking into account that for some "wild" popula-
tions, the threat of overexploitation is real.
Over time, the shells did not only play an important role in the material survival
of Man, but also allowed to develop his culture, taking on symbolic values of
great importance. At the dawn of history, shells assumed mythical meanings and
rituals too: objects for life and death, of high symbolic value and magical: amulets,
sexual symbols, ornaments of beauty.
Shells and Molluscs have been also a constant source of inspiration for artists:
their geometries inspired many architects, while an incredible number of painters
and sculptors of all time have copied their shapes. Since the Renaissance, the
shells are very popular, objects of desire for many, and now a hobby involving
tens of thousands of fans around the world. The shells often show such refined
beauty to arouse a sense of pleasure, an aesthetic pleasure in the myriad of pas-
sionate collectors who, in all times and in all over the world, always looking for
and preserved, sometimes in almost pathological way.
Sometimes, they were used as musical instruments: rattles and trumpets made
with shells accompanied the children to play and the rites of war and peace of many people, in at least four continents, while some cowries were “true” money
in three continents for over half a millennium.
Molluscs have had also an important role in the history of clothing: the Phoenici-
ans learned to extract purple to dye clothes from Molluscs and until the last centu-
ry in southern Italy fine "silky" tissues were made spinning the byssus from a
The contribution that Molluscs have given and continue to give to the experi-
mental biology and medicine is great. Gastropods and squids were and are still
used as lab animals: they seem to have been designed by Nature itself to facilitate
researches on neurology.
This book wants to be just a tribute to a group of organisms that, consumed as
food since prehistoric times, has always fascinated, and inspired Man, accompa-
nying him in his history: a group of organisms that has and continues to have an
important and little known place in the cultural evolution of Man.
No conflict of interest arised in this work.
Department of Life and Environmental Sciences
Università Politecnica delle Marche (Ancona, Italy)
A special thanks to Nathalie Yonow (Swansea) and Angelo Mojetta (Milan):
without the benefits of their experience and expertise, this book would be im-
poverished both in scope and interpretation.
We are grateful to Drosos Koutsoubas (University of the Aegean, Mytilene, Gree-
ce), Simon Thrush (NIWA, New Zealand), Ester Cecere (CNR, Istituto Talasso-
grafico, Taranto), Carla del Vais (Museo Civico di Cabras, Oristano, Sardinia),
Salvatore Sebis (Oristano, Sardinia), Giorgio Bavestrello, Maria Cristina Bonci,
Antonio Guerci, Paolo Modenesi, Paolo Povero (University of Genoa), Renata
Manconi (University of Sassari), Simone Bava (MPA Bergeggi), Vanessa Bracali
(Vigo, Spain), Marino Vacchi (ISPRA, Rome), Ferdinando Boero (University of
Salento), Gian Carlo Carrada, Giovanni Fulvio Russo, Roberto Sandulli (Univer-
sity of Naples), Lorenzo Senes (Aquarium of Genoa), Carlo Ossola (Milan), Gio-
vanni Battista and Antonio Figari (Genoa), Giovanna De Rege (Rocca Grimalda,
Alessandria), Giulio Melegari (Milan), for their indispensable suggestions and
continued support during the writing.
She sells sea-shells on the sea-shore,
For if she sells sea-shells on the sea-shore
Then I’m sure she sells sea-shore shells.
Terry Sullivan, Tongue-twister (1908) inspired by Mary Anning (1799-1847), the
most famous English fossil "hunter"
Qui zase Bernardin de Ca’ Donao
Che morì in tel pescar cape de deo,
co la camisa curta e l’cul bagnato
Del Milecinquecento. Ora pro eo.
(Here Bernardin de Ca’ Donao lies. He died fishing scallops with a short shirt
and a wet ass. In the 1500 year. Pray for him)
A scallop fisherman’s epitaph in Venice (16th century)
TO GIANNI ROGHI
This book is dedicated to the memory of Gianni Roghi (1927-1967), Italian jour-
nalist, diver, photographer, mollusc expert, and curious explorer of the world.
Keen collector of shells, Roghi left us from the pages of Mondo Sommerso, the
first world magazine dedicated to diving activities, a series of articles on malacol-
ogy which were, for the youth of those times, a treasure of knowledge, research,
Cover: a painted Nautilus shell from Bali, Indonesia (20th century).
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Department of Life and Environmental Sciences