While researching for more information on giant clams in the Red Sea and East Africa region, I discovered an interesting marine animal with respect to the giant clams!
This here is a Scyllarides tridacnophaga, a species of slipper lobster that is widely distributed in the Indo-West Pacific. They are mainly found within the Red Sea, East Africa, Gulf of Aden and Pakistan, and extends to Chennai coast and Thailand. Scyllarides tridacnophaga can grow up to 300mm – probably one of the largest slipper lobster! In Kenya, there exists a small-scale lobster fishery by-catch, and considered a ‘commercially less-important species‘, hence assessed as “Least Concern” in IUCN.
Now the most interesting part, and some of you might have already guessed it… This species of slipper lobster is commonly known as the “Giant clam killer”, as it has been observed to pry open live Tridacna shells (Holthuis 1968, 1991; Lavalli et al. 2007). They are also known to feed on molluscs and dead fish. Holthuis (1968: p.298) described the first observations of these animals attacking live Tridacna and ate them, thus the reason to propose for its specific name tridacnophaga (with the affix of ‘Tridacna‘). The paper further describes accounts of Scyllarides tridacnophaga feeding observations but alas, in German. I’ll google-translate the German text when I have some time on hand, but for now, I leave you with a new tidbit about predators of giant clams. Our recent publication also described ~75 other species of predators, and this record of Scyllarides tridacnophaga adds to the list of giant clam predators! 🙂
- Holthuis, L.B. 1968. The Palinuridae and Scyllaridae of the Red Sea. The Second Israel, South Red Sea Expedition, 1965, Report No. 7. Zoologische Mededelingen. Vol 42 No 26. Pp. 281-301. 2 pls.
- Holthuis, L.B. 1991. Marine lobsters of the world. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of species of
interest to fisheries known to date. FAO species catalogue 13(125). FAO, Rome.
- Lavalli, K.L., Spanier, E. and Grasso, F. 2007. Behaviour and Sensory Biology of Slipper Lobsters. In: Lavalli,
K.L. and Spanier, E (eds), The Biology and Fisheries of the Slipper Lobster, pp. 133-182. CRC Press, Taylor
and Francis Group, Florida.
- MacDiarmid, A., Cockcroft, A. & Butler, M. 2013. Scyllarides tridacnophaga. The IUCN Red List of
Threatened Species 2013: e.T169991A6701043. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2011-