Nature Life: Oysters, Nature’s Producer of Pearls
By Obiabin Onukwugha
Oyster is the common name for a number of different families of salt-water bivalve molluscs that live in marine or brackish habitats. In some species, the valves are highly calcified, and many are somewhat irregular in shape.
Oysters have gills that they use to breathe as well as feed on microorganisms floating through the water around them. Even the shaping of their shells is unique in that it is shaped by the bed they are growing in while in their reef.
An oyster becomes an adult when it turns one year old and can live as long as 20 years.
Their generations settle on one another and grow, forming reefs that provide shelter for other animals, like fish and crabs. Juvenile oysters are called spat.
Scientists say Oysters can change their sex and may likely do it more than once in course of their lives. Oysters are vegetarians. They eat algae by filtering it out of the water.
It is also said that a single adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day.
Called “gigei” in Yoruba, “kawa”, in Hausa and Mgbe by the riverine Ijaws, Oysters, is popular delicacy, and are critical to healthy coastal ecosystems. In Rivers State, fisher man soup is not complete without the Oyster.
It’s unique taste adds flavour to the soup and makes you want to eat more and more whether dried or fresh.
Their valuable marine minerals and trace elements (potassium, phosphorus, sodium, zinc, calcium, magnesium, iron) help to revitalize the skin, giving you a smooth and mattified complexion, healthy cell protection and beautiful supple skin. This may explain why Ijaw women look uniquely beautiful.
Oysters are also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which play a central role in many aspects of health. In particular, omega-3s have been shown to help reduce inflammation, improve heart health, and protect against heart disease.
Aside its nutritional value, oyster is the “creator” of pearls. Pearl is a foreign substance covered with layers of nacre.
Researchers say sometimes an oyster finds that a piece of sand gets into its shell. Although it is only a grain, it gives the oyster great pain as oysters have feelings too.
But the oyster does not rebuke nor complain the harsh workings of fate that brings it to such a deplorable state. It does not curse nature nor claim that the sea must have given it protection.
Rather, the oyster accepts it to itself as it lays on a shell, that since it cannot remove the sand it shall try to do something about it.
The oyster has a natural reaction to cover up the irritant to protect itself.
By this, the mantle covers the irritant with layers of the same nacre substance that is used to create the shell.
It is said that as the years goes on, the oyster eventually becomes agitated, and the small grain of sand that has bothered it so much becomes a beautiful pearl, all richly aglow and falls out. At times the pearls are found after the oyster have been harvested.
This tells us that good things come to those who wait, better things come to those who do not give up and the best things come to those who believe.
No matter what conditions we find ourselves, with determination, we can turn an insignificant thing into something very precious. Also, we learn that nature is very powerful and majestic.
Regrettably, Oyster reefs are declining worldwide and face threats ranging from polluted and warming water to dredging, erosion, and diseases.
In the Niger Delta where oil pollution and activities of illegal bunkering have devastated the ecosystem, the population of oyster has been greatly reduced due to lack of mangroves which they use in forming the reefs.
This has made the oyster very expensive so that only a few financial bouyant persons and those who harvest it are able to afford it.