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Perplexing Pearl Production

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Mother of Pearl! Fire on the poopdeck!
Noby: So how long does the Pearl Making Machine take?
Doraemon: It's very quick! Just three months!
Noby: [cheerfully] Just three months!
Noby: What?! It takes that long?! Can't you make it go faster?
Doraemon: Don't make impossible demands! Real ones take three years, three months is already a major improvement!

Aside from being edible, oysters are most well-known for the fact that they produce beautiful, valuable pearls. In fiction, however, their ability to do this is often exaggerated — for example, it usually takes much less time for a fictional oyster to create a pearl than it does in real life. And it's not just oysters that can do it — any bivalve can create pearls, though clams are most commonly used.

Although most fictional pearls are round and perfect naturally, the process of making them look like that in real life is far more complex. It's a delicate procedure that takes place at special "pearl farms".

Also, fiction tends to gloss over why bivalves have pearls. In real life, it happens when an irritant, like a small stone, gets into the oyster's body. The oyster covers the irritant with a special substance called nacre (a.k.a. "mother of pearl") to protect the oyster's body. The nacre eventually forms and hardens into a pearl. In pearl farms, workers perform surgery to plant particles in the oysters' bodies to get them to make pearls. But in fiction, bivalves just suddenly make pearls, often for seemingly no other reason than to display them, or for a character to take them. Fictional bivalves even seem to value such pearls, while a real oyster would likely prefer them removed as the irritants they began as.

Sub-Trope of Artistic License – Marine Biology. Tends to overlap with Clam Trap, if a bivalve chomps down on people who try to take its pearl, and Clamshells as Mouths if the bivalve's inside for storing its pearl is depicted as a mouth with a tongue. Expect bivalves in fiction to shoot their pearls as some sort of Abnormal Ammo. See also Constantly Lactating Cow and Super Wool Growth for other animal products in fiction portrayed inaccurately.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The episode of Ulysses 31 "Temple of the Lestrigones" has the Odysseus shrunk by the baddie du jour. Ulysses sets out in a small spherical scout ship, which is caught in a clam and covered in nacre within hours.

    Films — Animation 
  • Finding Dory: Marlin and Nemo meet a loudmouthed clam who speaks by moving his shell like a mouth. He has a fairly big pearl, seen rolling around in his shell whenever he opens his mouth.
  • Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius: Jimmy makes pearl necklaces from actual pearls on oysters in order to impress his mom to allow him to go to Retroland. He actually put sand on each oysters and microwave them that somehow accelerate their growth by heating them to 4 years.
  • Shark Tale: Subverted in one scene near the beginning, where an oyster tries to sell a pearl at a pawn shop and is outraged when the proprietor says it's fake, yelling, "I worked eight years on that!"


     Puppet Shows 
  • Jean-Dodd van Clamme in Enter the Chowder: Manhattan Style from Episode 205 of Muppets Tonight can spit out a string of pearls (with string!) as a gift to Spamela Hamderson.
    Spamela: Pearls? But you're not an oyster.
    Jean-Dodd: Well, you're a talking pig, so let's not get technical.

    Video Games 
  • Club Penguin: In "Aqua Grabber", there is a giant clam with a pearl. The player can steal the pearl by performing a Weight and Switch with a rock.
  • Clams appear in Bricks Of Atlantis, in which hitting them will the ball will open them, each time revealing a pearl worth many points.
  • Discussed in Colossal Cave. You find a "giant clam" in one room. Once you pry it open:
    A glistening pearl falls out of the clam and rolls away. Goodness, this must really be an oyster. (I never was very good at identifying bivalves.)
  • The Clambo enemy in Donkey Kong Country and Donkey Kong Land attacks by spitting out pearls, often more than one at a time. In the latter game, there is a King Mook called Colossal Clambo, whom the player defeats by getting its pearls to bounce back at it.
  • Escape Lala 2: A weird example. There is a giant clam with a cube-shaped pearl. With a face. As it turns out, the pearl lives with a small colony of others of its kind, so it's implied that the clam actually captured the pearl rather than creating it.
  • In Feeding Frenzy, the clam at the bottom of the screen occasionally opens to reveal a pearl that can be stolen for bonus points.
  • Niko the oyster from Insaniquarium creates a pearl every few minutes. Each one yields a lot of money.
  • Pikmin (2001): The Pearly Clamclamp, unlike many enemies in the series, highly resembles a real clam (though it lives on land), and each one contains a pearl... except for the one which has instead eaten one of the pieces of Olimar's spaceship, which rests plainly visible inside the shell and is not turned into a pearl as would have happened with a real oyster. The pearls can be brought back to the Onions as food and produce a shocking fifty Pikmin each, the second highest in the game behind the one-time drop of the Optional Boss, the Smoky Progg.
  • The Pokémon Clamperl resembles a giant clam with a pink pearl for its head, resting in the shell. Cloyster, which resembles an oyster, also has what appears to be a black or purple pearl for a head.
    • Clamperl is a possible subversion, as it is implied that the "pearl" is in fact a fish egg that lives inside a clamshell, seeing as how it evolves into Huntail or Gorebyss (which are similar to eels).
    • Both Clamperl and Cloyster, as well as Cloyster's pre-evolution Shellder, can be found holding ordinary Pearls or Big Pearls which can be sold for decent money.
  • Tasty Blue: Some levels feature three clams that repeatedly open and close, sometimes with a pearl, sometimes not. The player needs to eat the pearls to grow bigger, so he can eventually eat the clams himself.
  • Ultimate Crab Battle: One of the crab's attacks is splitting his body in half lengthwise and opening up like a clamshell to reveal a pearl inside of him. It shoots reflected light beams at you.
  • Wii Party's minigame Pearl Plunder has the Miis trying to collect pearls produced by some scallops when the latter open their shells.
  • Opening a clam in World of Warcraft will sometimes yield a pearl.
  • The first Freddi Fish has a trio of oysters that challenge you to a shuffling game, in which you must pick one holding a pearl that is earned as a prize. Said pearl is used to give to King Crab in exchange for a Message in a Bottle.
  • Squid Ink: The oyster (which looks like a clam) produces pearls (used as the Idle Game's persistent currency) every hour, in amounts that quickly require scientific notation to quantify.
  • In The Simpsons Game, the fight against Matt Groening has him summoning an army of Bender and Zoidbergs with all the Zoidbergs attacking long range by spitting out pearls.
  • In Stardew Valley, catching oysters or other shellfish, or keeping them in a fish pond will not produce pearls... keeping blobfish has a ~2% chance to do so. There's also a 0.5% chance to catch one while deep sea fishing at the Winter Market, where blobfish can be obtained but not shellfish, which also supports the idea that blobfish make pearls in this universe.

    Web Animation 

    Western Animation 
  • Futurama has rare non-bivalvian example: In Bendin in the Wind, Dr. Zoidberg ends up broke along with the others on a road trip and has taken to eating dirt, which causes him to hack up psychedelic colored pearls that he treats like loogies. Zoidberg can do this because his Bizarre Alien Biology blends a lot of traits found in terrestrial sea creatures.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • Subverted in the episode "The Smoking Peanut". Clamu the giant oyster is fond of her pearl, which she can shoot into the air as part of her performance, and it turns out that the reason she went on a rampage was that Mr. Krabs stole her pearl, which is actually an egg.
    • The episode "Clam Whisperer" has SpongeBob befriending a school of clams who follow him everywhere. At one point the clams keep shooting pearls at Mr. Krabs, to his delight (and pain).
  • The 1960s Popeye cartoon "Wimpy the Moocher" plays with this. Wimpy shows up at Rough House's diner and orders an oyster with his only dime. Wimpy discovers a pearl in his oyster, and Rough House gives him 30 hamburgers for the pearl. When Rough House goes to sell the pearl, he learns that it's just one of many imitation pearls Wimpy had bought earlier — for 10 cents each.
  • On the Bugs Bunny cartoon "Ali Baba Bunny", Bugs finds a pearl in one of the steam clams he's been eating. It's immediately taken by Daffy Duck, who has been shrunken down by a genie. The clam closes in on him for the Iris Out.
  • The PAW Patrol episode "Sea Patrol: Pups Save Puplantis": gives the Magic Shell of Puplantis, which creates pearls rapidly. This case is justified, as those pearls are Puplantis's life source, and without the pearls or the shell, Puplantis will fall apart.

    Real Life 
  • According to The Other Wiki, almost any shelled mollusk can produce pearls of some kind, under the right circumstances, but most species produce unattractive pearls with no gem value. On the other hand, there are a few non-oyster species that do produce pearls of gemological interest, including certain clams, scallops, and sea-snails.
  • The Pearl of Lao Tzu, from a giant clam, valued between $35 million and $93 million. It is second in size only to the Pearl of Puerto.
  • Be very careful when purchasing pearls from vendors at conventions and online "pearl parties." The oysters have been preserved with formalin, which is a known carcinogen. (And if you're one of the people who are going to be "shucking" such oysters, it's best to wear gloves and masks.)The real problem, though, is that this chemical can leach into the pearl, making it unsafe to wear. In fact, it's probably better to get your pearls from reputable pearl farmers and let them take it out of an oyster that hasn't been pumped full of chemicals.
  • An oyster bar in London used to advertise that customers could keep any pearls they found. The edible oyster does not contain mother-of-pearl, and any "pearls" created would be the non-iridescent ones described above.