When a tree falls in a forest, no matter if someone hears it, it sometimes becomes clam food. The wood that finds its way from the rivers to the ocean can eventually become flooded and sink to the seabed, sometimes to great depths. There, small clams drilled the wood, ate the wood chips and lived the rest of their lives in the holes they made. In a new role in the Mollusk Studies MagazineResearchers have updated the family tree of clams that drill deep-sea wood with three new groups of genera and a new species.
All clams are aquatic animals with two shells that cover a soft and soft body. Boring wood clams have a special feature, as they are buried deep in sunken pieces of wood, they have long tube-shaped organs called siphons that extend from their shells to the ocean water, so they can extract the water and extract it. . Oxygen of it with its gills. But it's the clam diets that make them really unique. They can flex their muscles and swing their shells against the wood, scraping small pieces. The clams then eat this sawdust and digest it with the help of special bacteria in their gills. Along with termites and shipworms, they are some of the only animals on Earth that can eat wood. And, as the new study revealed, there are many more types fundamentally different from what was originally thought.
"There is not a single tree cleaner in the ocean, they are very diverse," says Janet Voight, Associate Curator of Invertebrate Zoology at the Field Museum and lead author of the study. "Imagine living at the bottom of the ocean like a little swimming clam, or you should find a piece of wood that is sunken or dying, you would not think there would be many types of clams doing this, but now we have discovered that there are six different groups, called genera, and around sixty different species. "
When scientists discover a new organism, be it a clam or a frog or a tree, they clbadify it with a name that indicates where it belongs in their family tree. Just as we can give more and more specific locations to go from one continent to another, from one state to another, from city to street, scientists place animals in increasingly specific categories of order, family, gender and species. In this document, Voight and his colleagues examined a wide variety of members of the clam family that eat wood on the high seas. By observing the clams themselves and studying their DNA, the researchers determined that there are at least six different genera (plural of "genus") that make up the family. Three of these genres are described for the first time in this article. The researchers also determined that there was a species that had not been previously discovered and that lurked in the museum collections of these clams.
The importance of physical differences between groups is not immediately apparent. To help confirm the grouping suggested by the physical characteristics of the animals, the researchers performed a DNA badysis of the samples. "You think, I'm seeing everything that's there, are there cryptic species, I'm exaggerating and I'm going crazy? It's really scary to compare yourself to DNA, but the results that match what I found gave me a lot of confidence," says Voight.
The new genres are named. Abditoconus ("cone oculto", a reference to how difficult it was to find the cones that cover the siphons of the clams inside the wood) Spiniapex ("spiny tip", for the spike at the tip of the clam siphon), and Feaya, in honor of the Feay family, who supported Voight's scientific research at the Field Museum. The new species, Gilsonorum, is a reference to the Gilsons, who invented scientific tools and supported the efforts of the museum.
While the clams are small (some have smaller pea shells, even when they are adults), they can settle in large numbers, which makes them an important factor for the health of their deep-sea ecosystems. "We have no idea how much wood there is at the bottom of the ocean, but there's probably a lot more than we think," says Voight. "After the big storms, we estimate that millions of tons of wood are dragged into the sea, what would happen if these clams were not there to help eat it?" Think how long it would take for the wood to rot. an essential role in turning wood into something that the other animals at the bottom of the ocean can obtain energy, it could even affect the rise in sea level.
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