Seeing this critter made me think about how you believe you know something, and then, much much later on, discover that what you thought you knew, about a person, a place, a fact, is incomplete or just plain wrong. Up until last week, my mental picture of Jones Beach did not include sea lice. I now have had to modify that inner vision to include this new piece of data.
The Big Green Book of the Big Blue Sea, I discovered that everything I thought I knew about pearls was wrong. No, they are not made by oysters when a bit of grit gets into their shell and irritates the lining.
You, like me, probably learned this fact aeons ago. How could it - we - be wrong?
Even worse, the true cause of pearl formation has been known since 1856. People have been repeating incorrect information and spreading it for well over a hundred years. Jeesh.
So what does cause a pearl to form, if not a bit of grit? "The most beautiful pearl is only the brilliant sarcophagus of a worm," said Raphael Dubois in 1901. And in fact, the pearl is a method for entombing a parasite that has invaded the mollusk's shell. Slap it with a liquidy goo that soon hardens, and voila, the pest is neutralized.
One of the fun hands-on activities in The Big Green Book of the Big Blue Sea is making a real pearl of your own. Since finding and working with parasites is kind of yucky, I suggest you start the pearl the way I did - with a fake parasite/piece of grit. I used a tiny balled-up wad of paper. Over a period of several weeks, I coated the wad with layers of pearly white nail polish, letting the pearl dry between coats. Turn it over and repeat until you have a pearl like this one - pretty enough to wear, and not at all yukky.