The “stone eater” or date mussel is a endolithic bivalve that lives in the Corfu seabed. Its scientific name is “Lithophaga lithophaga“.
Although it is considered a delicious food, in recent years, its consumption has been banned as it is considered an endangered species.
It is a gonochoric species, which means that there are males and females, as is the case with humans. They can live for many years, even in excess of 50. The first years of their life are spent clinging to the rocks, while growing up they bore holes inside the marine rocks. They grow very slowly and may take 15-35 years to reach a length of 5 cm.
They tend to filter the water and feed on the various foods that exist around them, mainly algae and plankton.
The mussel reproduces for the first time at the age of two or more, and remains reproductively active throughout its life. Its shell is often attached to other organisms, both of the same species and others, such as sponges and polychaetes.
Fishing and marketing of date mussels is prohibited by law. However, many divers and fishermen break the rocks resulting in, not only the reduction of their population, but also the destruction of this ecosystem.
Despite being banned, this item continues to be illegally available in local restaurants and tavernas. The unfortunate thing is that due to its slow growth rate its population is diminishing rapidly and it will be extremely difficult for its numbers to fully recover.