The purple shirt in your closet has an interestingly rich and odd history that many people are unaware of. Cloth in purple tones was once worn by Romans to signal royalty in the 13th century. The colored fabric was produced outside of Italy and imported in from Lebanon thanks to the Murex genus of drilling snails scientifically known as Hexaplex trunculus. This particular type of snail harvested from the shores of the Mediterranean was used for its secretion of mucus from the hypobranchial gland that was discovered to have the unique ability to dye cloth and threads. Lacking in detail of how the mucus dye had its first encounter with clothing, it is known that the secretion, although black in appearance was able to brilliantly produce the color deemed Tyrian Purple.
The initial discovery and production of Tyrian Purple was immense and the process to obtain it was anything but pleasant. Before the sought after dye could be reached, the mollusks would have to be left to deteriorate in the sun while skilled laborers would be dealt not only the horrid smell, but also the task of collecting mucus. Nonetheless Romans demanded the color and the hardship of production was well worth the demand and end result of vibrant fabric.
After the middle 1400's, easier to obtain purples produced from bugs were discovered and the dirty business of harvesting the snail for its mucus slowed down. Advances in the twentieth century discovered the specific natural chemical within the mucus secretion responsible for producing Tyrian purple within the unique drilling snails. This chemical was thoroughly researched and studied yet synthetic dyes are the easier choice today for clothing and other dyed materials in varyingly beautiful purple hues. No need to worry, there's no snail mucus byproduct in your closet.
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