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Citrus County is scallop country. Each year, seafood lovers bag the bivalves just offshore of Crystal River and Homosassa. And guests from across the country come to the county to join in the fun of harvesting scallops for a delicious meal.rnrnAs Botticelli\\\'s masterpiece The Birth of Venus illustrates, Greek and Roman mythology associated the goddess of love with the scallop, reflecting the ancient use of scallops as a fertility symbol. Today, Shell Oil and countless other companies use a scallop shell in their insignia. So whether representing love or a modern corporation, scallops enjoy considerable significance even outside of waterways and cuisine.rnrnrnBivalves of the BaysrnrnThe species of scallop enjoyed by recreational harvesters in Citrus County is the bay scallop (Argopecten irradians), which lives typically in shallow saltwater environments such as bays and harbors from Massachusetts to Texas. In Florida, they are usually found in grassy estuarine areas along the west coast up through the Palm Beach area on the east.rnrnBay scallops are about 2 to 3 inches long and encased in a fan-shaped shell that is gray to reddish brown on the outside and usually white with purple edges on the inside. Most live about a year.rnrnBay scallops are bivalves, fitting into the class Bivalvia. Bivalves are invertebrate, ocean-living mollusks which have a hinged, two-part shell in which the animal\\\'s body mass in encased. Other bivalves include oysters, clams and mussels. One distinguishing feature that separates bivalves from other mollusks is their lack of a radula, the tongue-like ribbon of tiny teeth that snails and most other mollusks use to scrape food into their mouths.rnrnBay scallops feed by filtering water across open pathways in their two gill covers—one absorbs oxygen and algae and floating detritus as food, and another expels waste and water. Adult bay scallops can filter nearly 15 liters of water an hour.rnrnBay scallops have an adductor (or hinge) muscle that is much larger and stronger than those found in oysters. This muscle is the part of the scallop most often eaten by humans, and it gives bay scallops the ability to open and close their shells to a degree unseen in most bivalves outside of the scallop (Pectinidae) family.rnrnUnlike shellfish that are sedentary or attached to a stationary object, bay scallops can move by clapping their shells to push them backwards. A scallop will move when it senses potentially dangerous motion by using another uncommon feature: the many small blue eyes that ring its body near the lip of the shell. And while scallops never have eyesight enough to order off a seafood menu, their ability to detect light, dark and motion is their best defense against hungry stone crabs, blue crabs and other predators.rnrnFlorida bay scallops breed in the fall, when cooler temperatures trigger spawning. These bivalves are hermaphrodites: Each scallop produces both eggs and sperm, released separately to reduce the chance of inbreeding. Out of the millions of eggs that each scallop produces, only one is likely to survive into adulthood. Scallops will not reproduce in situations where food is limited.rnrnBecause they survive by filtering water, scallops are the bellwethers of the bays. Changes in salinity and water quality affect scallops acutely, and drops in their numbers provide scientists with an early warning sign of environmental problems. Recent years have seen a dramatic increase in the number of scallops in Tampa Bay, for instance, as a result of proactive regulation and environmental efforts.rnrnrnSensational ScallopingrnrnCitrus County\\\'s scallop season runs from July 1 through September 10, bringing a fun family activity that requires no expensive equipment—just a snorkel, a mesh bag and plenty of sunscreen. Scallop seekers dive for the meaty morsels in the grassy flats and estuaries, catching the bivalves in no more than six feet of water. Many visitors choose to enlist the services of a professional guide to take them to the best scalloping spots.rnrnScallopers may harvest up to two gallons of whole scallops in the shell, or one pint of meat, per person per day. No vessel may have more than 10 gallons of whole bay scallops or half a gallon of meat onboard at any time. Scallops may only be taken by hand or with a landing or dip net.rn