New alien-like clam species discovered

Last Updated: Wednesday, July 17, 2013 - 12:28

Washington: Three scientists have discovered a rather unusual clam off the coast of California and British Columbia.

Paul Valentich-Scott from the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, and Diarmaid O Foighil from the University of Michigan, Museum of Zoology first began discussing this unusual clam back in 1989.

Valentich-Scott discovered his strange specimens off the coast of Santa Barbara and Morro Bay, California, while O Foighil uncovered his while trawling for invertebrates off Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

They had discovered the same new species, at the same time, but over 1,000 miles apart.

Neither scientists could identify the animal and both were amazed by its thin, translucent shell and long willowy tentacles.

O Foighil was able to collect and observe living specimens of the new species.

"We were looking closely at sea urchins and noticed something crawling on the fine spines covering the urchin body," O Foighil said.

"We were amazed to see that there were minute clams crawling all over the sea urchin," the scientist said.

Thus two decades of research began, trying to understand and formally describe this new animal.

Rescue finally came from doctoral student Jingchun Li at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Li is a specialist in clam DNA.

She was able to amplify the DNA of the new species and compare it to other similar species.

"We were pleased to see the new species was very distinct genetically," Li said.

"However we were surprised to find that its closest relative was from the South Atlantic Ocean off Argentina," she said.


First Published: Wednesday, July 17, 2013 - 12:28

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