Scientists have described a new species of giant clam from the Red Sea.
The new species, which has been named Tridacna costata by a team of scientists from Germany's Alfred-Wegener-Institute for Polar and Marine Research, is the first new member of the genus to be discovered in over 20 years.
The authors, who announced their discovery in the journal Current Biology, said that Tridacna costata can be told apart from other members of the group by its characteristic shell, which has pronounced vertical folds.
The species also reproduces at an earlier age than other Tridacna species that occur in the Red Sea.
However, it does not appear to be common. Just 1% of present stocks are believed to be Tridacna costata, but it does make up over 80% of clams in the Red Sea's fossil record.
The authors said: "The decline in proportion and shell size (20x) indicates overharvesting dating back to the early human occupation of the Red Sea >125,000 years ago.
"This earliest depletion reported so far of a shallow-water megafaunal invertebrate has important ramifications for human dispersal out of Africa.
"Its oversight in one of the best-investigated reef provinces illustrates the dearth of knowledge on marine biodiversity."
For more information see the paper: Richter C, Roa-Quiaoit H, Jantzen C, Al-Zibdah M, Kochzius M. (2008) - Collapse of a new living species of giant clam in the red sea. Curr Biol. 2008 Sep 9;18(17):1349-54. Epub 2008 Aug 28.Click here to read Links