Glowing Clams algae fuel sunshine

Mysterious Glowing Clams Could Help Save the Planet

Biophysicist Alison Sweeney is fascinated by the giant clams she encountered in the Western Pacific islands of Ngermind Bay. Sweeney has taken to photographing the clams as part of her research on the effect of climate change on the world’s oceans. The huge clams have an iridescent glow and are cartoonish in size due to photosynthetic algae that are dispersed throughout their flesh. Sweeney and other researchers suspect that the clam’s growth patterns under these very unique warm conditions may offer insight into alternative low-carbon fuels for the future.

Key Takeaways:

  • These giant clams reach their large proportions thanks to an exceptional ability to grow their own photosynthetic algae in vertical farms spread throughout their flesh
  • The microalgae, called zooxanthellae, keep their clams fat and happy with the sugars they need to survive. In exchange, their hosts provide a safe home and a daily dose of sunlight.
  • Listening to nature is at the heart of a growing confluence of biology and materials science.

“As we slice through blue-green water beside the mushroom-shaped islands, we see fruit bats sleeping upside down in the trees above us, and extensive corals below. Some of the corals are bleached from the conditions in Ngermid Bay, where naturally high temperatures and acidity mirror the expected effects of climate change on the global oceans.”

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