Giant Clams in Peril

The group visited a marine lab on Aitutaki today and met with Charlie Waters. Charlie recently finished a PhD focused on the giant clams of the Cook Islands. These clams were heavily overfished until they became functionally extinct (could not reproduce in the wild). Clams are important filter feeders in the reef ecosystem and are an important food source for octopus, porcupine fish, parasitoid snails, humans and multiple other animals.
The clams engage in a symbiotic relationship with phytoplankton (photosynthesizing plankton). The clams rely on the plankton for energy and have trouble surviving without the phytoplankton.
The lab has tried to implement reintroduction of multiple species of clams but poaching continues to ruin the efforts. In an attempt to come up with a solution, Charlie believes the best method is to educate youth and tourists on respecting the reef system. Hopefully these educational programs will eventually allow a successful reintroduction of these beautiful animals to their natural habitat.

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