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Giant Clam

Posted February 14, 2013. Photo by Amy Landers/ABQ BioPark.

In warm, shallow waters of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, giant clams (Tridacna gigas) and tiny algae live together symbiotically. It’s not the most romantic relationship but is extremely beneficial to both organisms. Billions of algae, called zooxanthellae, are protected in clams’ tissues and photosynthesize as the mollusks bask in the sunlight.

In return for prime real estate, the clams get sugars and proteins from the algae. With these reliable nutrients, giant clams can grow up to four feet, weigh 500 pounds and live more than 100 years. Clams also use a siphon to draw in water and consume animal and plant plankton.

Contrary to popular belief, giant clams do not trap and eat unsuspecting human divers. But we do eat them. Overharvesting for food and shells threatens these giants. Learn more by visiting the Aquarium’s giant clams in the Pacific Gallery.

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