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New Species: Large, Unique File Clam Found in Canada

Aug 31, 2015 12:08 PM EDT
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A new species of giant file clam, Acesta cryptadelphe, was found off Canada's Atlantic coast. This species of clam is two or three times larger than a regular file clam, researchers say.

According to a news release, samples were collected off that nation's continental shelf in the Grand Banks and in a protected area known as "The Gully," off the coast of Nova Scotia. Researchers conducted a DNA analysis of this new species and compared them to other museum collections of giant file clams.

"This is the culmination of a story that began decades ago when, as a Ph.D. student, I first observed this clam in an underwater submersible off the coast of Newfoundland," Dr. Jean-Marc Gagnon, Curator of Invertebrates with the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa, said in a statement. "Originally, we assumed it to be a European species."

This new species is about nine to 15 cm long and was found to attach to steep rocky outcrops in canyons, where deepwater species, such as cold-water corals, also live. Because of similar shape and structure between the European giant file clams, Acesta excavate, and this new species, it was named Acesta cryptadelphe, means "cryptic sibling."

While exploring the deepwater canyons of the Gully Marine Protected Area (MPA), the researchers used an underwater vehicle with cameras and manipulator arms to collect their new specimens, the release noted.

"Using all this technology allowed us to photograph and collect intact specimens, and then to process the DNA while at sea. This gave us an early indication that we might have something special," Dr. Ellen Kenchington, a scientist with the Bedford Institute of Oceanography (BIO) in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, said in the statement. "The Gully MPA continues to amaze us with new discoveries. It is an extraordinary place."

Gagnon first observed these clams over 30 years ago. While he recognized them as unusual with scallop-like characteristics, it was not till a couple years later that he gave them more attention, the release said.

"We had a limited number of clams to examine, but enough to conclude at the time that they were similar enough in morphology to the European giant clam, and likely represented new northerly records for this known species," Gagnon explained in the release.

After receiving samples from various other locations, Gagnon examined more than 150 clams for this study. However, it was not until the researchers had new DNA technology that they could finally prove this new species was genetically different from the European and other known species.

"Our persistence shows that there are still discoveries to be made from deep in our oceans, and both museum collections and genetic analysis are important resources to advance this knowledge," Gagnon said in the release.

Their study was recently published in the journal Zootaxa.

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