La palabra molusco significa cuerpo blando. Y en realidad cuando tocamos un pulpo, un calamar o el cuerpo de una babosa o “siete cueros”, notamos que estos organismos tienen un cuerpo sumamente blando.
Como adaptación, para proteger su cuerpo, la gran mayoría de estos animales desarrollaron una concha de carbonato calizo. Esta es la que cubre a una almeja, a un mejillón, y a la gran mayoría de los caracoles terrestres. La concha de muchos de estos animales es tan hermosa que el coleccionarlos es un pasatiempo muy popular.
De acuerdo con el Dr. Manuel Vélez, en su obra sobre los invertebrados de Puerto Rico, en Puerto Rico se han informado más de 1,300 especies de moluscos, la mayoría de estos marinos. Añade Vélez que este grupo, luego de los artrópodos, el más numeroso de este planeta.
Los moluscos han tenido una gran importancia a nivel mundial. Las almejas, ostiones, ostras, mejillones, pulpos, calamares y caracoles como el carrucho han sido utilizados como fuentes de alimentos desde tiempo inmemoriales.
Indica Vélez, que los moluscos, en cierto periodo de nuestra prehistoria, fueron utilizados por grupos indígenas de tal manera, que una de estas culturas ha sido denominada como los ostionoides. Dicho sea de paso, se le denomina conchero a aquellos lugares en donde nuestros indígenas, dejaban por cientos las conchas de estos animales.
Hoy en día en nuestra Isla, consumimos grandes cantidades de ostiones y de carrucho. La sobrepesca de este último ha hecho que se haya hecho raro en muchos lugares. No se deben capturar animales pequeños, sin que estos lleguen a reproducirse. De lo contrario pudiéramos acabar con la especie. Es nuestro deber conservar nuestros recursos naturales vivos, para el uso y disfrute de futuras generaciones.
La palabra escargot, significa en francés caracol. No obstante, usualmente nos referimos a la especie Helix pomatia, o caracol de Borgoña, que se considera una delicadeza. ¡Con una mezcla de mantequilla, ajo y cilantro son exquisitos! En nuestra Isla existe un caracol terrestre de la especie Caracolus (Pleurodonte) caracola, que dicen algunos es tan sabroso como el escargot.
Otros moluscos, como las ostras de la especie, Pinctada martenssi, producen perlas, siendo de enorme valor económico las rosadas y las famosas perlas negras. Se le atribuye al japonés Kokichi Mikimoto, el ser el primero en producir las llamadas perlas cultivadas. Pero hoy en día se sabe que muchos siglos antes los chinos producían perlas introduciendo objetos dentro de ostras de agua dulce.
La capa interior de una ostra está hecha de nácar que es un tipo de carbonato calizo. Cuando usted introduce un grano de arena, dentro de una de estas ostras, el organismo cubre con nacar en capas concéntricas el grano de arena, convirtiéndose este, eventualmente, en lo que conocemos como una perla cultivada.
Los invertebrados más grande de este planeta lo son dos especies de calamares probablemente ambos del genero Architeuthis. Se han encontrado individuos de más de 10 metros (más de 32 pies) de longitud y se alega que en Nueva Zelanda se capturo un individuo de 21 metros (unos 70 pies). El mítico Kraken, se cree fue un calamar gigante.
En Puerto Rico, en tiempos recientes, se han introducido una serie de caracoles carnívoros, entre estos, el llamado Caracol lobo (Euglandina rosea). En Hawaii, la introducción de caracoles depredadores han causado graves problemas a los endémicos. No queremos que esto pase en Puerto Rico. No promueva la compra de caracoles carnívoros en tiendas de animales. Por ley estos están prohibidos. Denuncie aquella casa de animales que se dedique a la venta de estos. Cumpla con su deber ciudadano y ayude a la conservación de nuestros recursos naturales vivos.
*El autor es Catedrático de Biología en la Universidad de Puerto Rico, recinto de Humacao, y es miembro de Ciencia Puerto Rico (www.cienciapr.org).
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