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Sahara (2005) glowing clam shells

I like the 2005 movie Sahara, staring Matthew McConaughey, Steve Zahn, and Penelope Cruz. It is a fun adventure film when one looks at it as that and does not look too closely at the science of the small bits of sideline trivia tossed out in the film. Such as the scene, roughly 24 minutes into the movie, where Dirk Pitt (Matthew McConaughey) pauses to look at some shells and tells Eva Rojas (Penelope Cruz) about two shells he is buying. In the film, Dirk says responds to Eva’s asking if diving was the only thing he thinks about with: “No. Sometimes I think about Petricola pholaditormis.” Eva is perhaps justifiably confused by the response, particularly when Dirk proceeds to hold up matching white clam shell halves that seem to form the perfect shape of angelic wings the way he holds them. “The angel-wing clam,” he says, “This river’s the only place on Earth they’re found. When they’re underwater, they glow in the dark. Now the amazing thing’s that modern science cannot explain why.” Perhaps the reason that modern science can not explain it is because it is not true.

Not only do Petricola pholaditormis not glow in the dark under the water, but those are not even Petricola pholaditormis shells he displayed in the movie. What he held up were Cyrtopleura Costata. Petricola pholaditormis are known as “false angel wing”, and are bit differently shaped from the shells that Dirk was holding. The Cyrtopleura Costata, which were seen in the movie, is found in shallow waters of the north west Atlantic between Cape Cod and the Gulf of Mexico as well as other areas of shallow waters in the Atlantic.

The shells also do not glow, although, like most white items, the Cyrtopleura Costata shells will glow if exposed to ultraviolet light.

Still, it is a cute scene, despite the scientific error of it, and is easily forgiven in the overall scope of the film when one opts to not worry too much about the scientific inaccuracies and just enjoy the film as the treasure hunter adventure that it is.

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