Bivalve xenomorph of ammonite

Copy-cat oyster

In very muddy seas, oysters need a hard surface to attach to when they start life, otherwise they are simply smothered by the mud. In the Oxford Clay sea, dead ammonites lying on the sea bed provided a good starting point. As the oyster grew, it made an exact copy of the original ammonite shell in its own shell and this is known as xenomorphism. Other animals have in turn grown on the oyster, in this case tube worms – you can see them on the right-hand side and top of the photo.

Find out more about bivalves on the molluscs pages.

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Common name

Bivalve xenomorph of ammonite

Scientific name

Gryphaea (bilobissa) dilatata


Molluscs > Bivalves


Oxford Clay

Time period

Upper Jurassic


160 million years

Where found

Bowlease Cove

Found by

Found by J.Lake in the 1970s


Dorset County Museum, Dorchester

Accession number