And how would you like your Giant Clam?!

The Giant Clam, threatened by over harvesting for food and aquarium trade, it is a marvel of the Indo-Pacific.
The Giant Clam, threatened by over harvesting for food and aquarium trade, it is a marvel of the Indo-Pacific.

Last week, I was served Giant Clam. How did an endangered species find its way to my lunch table?! This particular clam was one of many marine casualties from a recent boat grounding. I was called in to conduct the damage report after a large tugboat ran aground inside of a protected fish sanctuary, and left a large hole where there was once reef.

This hole is 336 square meters or about the size of 11 parking spots, where there was once coral.
This hole is 336 square meters or about the size of 11 parking spots, where there was once coral.

Assisted by three Filipino free divers, we surveyed the area taking underwater measurements with a large 50m transect line of the damage area. Secondly, I took many photos with my underwater camera to document the destruction. Finally, I conducted a visual survey of damaged species including displaced fish species, sea stars, corals, sponges and most notably the Giant Clam.

These branching corals grow about 10cm per year, but boulder corals grow less than 2cm per year, meaning that this wreck will take 50 years or more for recovery.
These branching corals grow about 10cm per year, but boulder corals grow less than 2cm per year, meaning that this wreck will take 50 years or more for recovery.

The Giant Clam can live to be over 100 years old, reaching sizes of up to 4 feet and more than 440lbs. Luckily, the clam damaged in our boat grounding was only about the size of a basketball, but that is still much larger than any clam I had ever seen in the Atlantic Ocean! Giant Clams attain such impressive sizes through a symbiotic relationship with zooxanthellae, an algae that lives inside of its tissues, giving the clam its color. This is the same algae found inside the stony corals which build coral reefs. Zooxanthellae captures light energy and produces food for the clam through photosynthesis, while the clam provides a home for this algae. Did you know that no two Giant Clams have the same color pattern?!

The Giant Clam damaged by the boat grounding.
The Giant Clam damaged by the boat grounding.

Here is more info about the Giant Clam as well as more cool photos: http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/invertebrates/giant-clam/

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