Eaten by a giant clam” by Joseph Cummins neatly sums up my adventurous self in the pursuit of marine biology. More often than not, I pounced into the depths of the oceans seeking answers to satisfy my curiosity, and only to find even more questions that lead on to an endless adventure. Like the many other naturalists before me, they share many interesting stories about their adventures with science. Of course, a few very intriguing ones with the giant clams… 😉

The Giant Clam has been a fascinating species for decades but did you know that culturally in the early 1920s-1940s, they have been frequently portrayed as the evil man-eaters! Due to its immense body size and weight, people historically misunderstood them and thus assume that they had the ability to kill men. The US Navy Diving Manual was said to give detailed instructions on how to release oneself from the grasp of the clam by severing the adductor muscle that holds the clam shells together. In some accounts, they even mentioned drowning of a pearl diver when the Tridacna shell clamped on his arm!

Juvenile fluted giant clam
“Am I a man-eater? Nom nom nom!”

By the 1960s, people began to study the animal and realised its docile nature. While the clam can close up quickly in the presence of divers, they usually do it slowly giving divers time to react appropriately. Moreover, the fleshy tissues in larger clam individuals are so dense that the clam is unable to fully clamp up! Although I will admit that smaller clams can potentially grip on to your fingers if you aren’t careful! 😛

Superman & Giant Clam

While researching for this article (and also someone had asked me about the myth of ‘clam killer’), these ones are share-worthy. 😀 The first is a comic strip in the Superman comic – quite a dramatic one. The second one is an actual newspaper clipping dated in 1924 describing the traps of a giant clam.

GC trap divers
Borrowed from Modern Mechanix – Giant Clams Trap Sea Divers (May, 1924)

Last but not the least, here’s an old movie portrayal of a giant clam gripping onto the legs of a pearl diver, and later saved by the protagonist – Wake of the Red Witch (1948). 😀

Read more here about their man-eating tales: