New species of giant clam discovered


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A vivid new species of giant clam has been discovered on reefs in Western Australia and the Solomon Islands.

What's surprising is that the new species has been hiding in plain sight all along, as it looks very similar to Tridacna maxima.

Researchers collected samples of tissues from giant clams at up to 20m depth around Solomon Islands and Ningaloo Reef and found the specimen they thought was T. maxima was actually genetically quite different.

Jude Keyse, a School of Biological Sciences postgraduate student at the University of Queensland said: "Giant clams can grow up to 230kg and are some of the most recognisable animals on coral reefs, coming in a spectrum of vibrant colours including blues, greens, browns and yellow hues.

But she explained that the discovery of the new species had implications for management of giant clams.

"What we thought was one breeding group has turned out to be two, making each species even less abundant than previously thought," she said.

Charles Darwin University postgraduate student Mr Shane Penny, who co-authored the paper published in the open access journal PLoS One said identifying a new species within a well-known group such as giant clams was a unique opportunity for a student.

"To correctly describe the new species now becomes critical as the effects of getting it wrong can be profound for fisheries, ecology and conservation," he said.

Giant clams are beloved by divers and snorkelers but also prized as a source of meat and shells.

Overconsumption by humans has depleted giant clam populations in many areas and most species are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN ) Red List of Threatened Species.

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