What is a disco clam? and why do they exist? New work out of UC Berkeley, by Lindsey Dougherty, gives us new insight into these amazing clams!
Disco Clams Light Up the Ocean Floor
Disco clams get their name from the rippling light show on their mirrored lips, visible even in the dim blue depths.
UC Berkeley graduate student, Lindsey Dougherty, has been studying the clams for four years. Using high speed video, transmission electron microscopy, spectrometry, energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy and computer modeling, she has found that the edge of the clam’s mantle lip is highly reflective on one side. When the clam unfurls its lip, the millimeter-wide mirror is revealed and reflects the ambient light, like a disco ball.
She was assisted by colleagues Roy Caldwell, UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology; Sönke Johnsen of Duke University; and N. Justin Marshall of the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.
Called Ctenoides ales and sometimes referred to as the electric clam, disco clams are found in tropical areas of the Pacific Ocean, living in crevices in reefs and typically in clusters of two or more. In ongoing experiments in Caldwell’s lab, Dougherty is studying the structure of the clam’s 40 eyes.