Member Highlight: Surf Clams Adapting To Climate Change, Study Finds

2019-07-01T13:28:04+00:00 July 1, 2019|
(Credit: Marlith/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0))

(Credit: Marlith/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0))

(From National Fisherman/ By Kirk Moore) — East Coast surf clams – and the industry that relies upon them – look to be successfully adapting to rising ocean temperatures as clam larvae survive in newly hospitable waters, according to a newly published study.

Drawing on three decades of surf clam stock survey data, professors Jeremy Timbs and Eric Powell of the University of Southern Mississippi and Roger Mann of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science found the shellfish are effectively shifting their range.

“For a sedentary species, surf clams are remarkably adaptable to ocean changes that would cause problems for other shellfish,” said Powell.

The key to making that shift is the massive volume of larvae that surf clams produce, according to the study published in the Marine Ecology Progress series. Most of the larvae are eaten by predators, die from lack of food or temperature extremes.

But as the higher end of the temperature scale rises in the south of the range, bottom temperatures to the north and east are warming and more larvae can survive there. In effect, the population shift is like a slow-motion roll, with clam numbers declining as the southern edge retreats, and advancing into waters that used to be too cold.

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