Ghostly clams

Have you seen a bleached giant clam?


Bleaching in cultured juvenile Tridacna maxima at the St John’s Island Marine Laboratory.

In the (not so many) years of my research, I have not personally encountered bleaching giant clams, despite the severity of the major global events in the last two decades. This includes experiences locally (Singapore) and overseas. Unfortunately, we had that opportunity to observe first-hand clam bleaching in our aquarium tanks. 😩

My colleagues had first observed slight paling in the mid-May but was not yet alarmed. It was in early June, when more clams started to bleach out and ‘turn white’. The severity of clam bleaching is as follows (starting with worst performer): Tridacna maxima > Tridacna gigas > Tridacna squamosa. Note that all species are cultured species, which means that they are not naturally wild giant clams. We also observed mortality in the most severely bleached giant clams. 😩 Fortunately, the intertidal team had yet to report a bleaching clam! Phew!


Bleaching in giant clam results the loss of symbiont, zooxanthellae. This individual here showed partial bleaching.

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World Congress of Malacology 2016

World Congress of Malacology 2016 – The 19th International Congress of UNITAS MALACOLOGICA, 18-24 July 2016, Penang, Malaysia

The World Congress of Malacology (WCM) is a tri-annual congress, which brings together scientists from all over the world to discuss issues related to molluscan research. The theme for this year’s WCM 2016 is “Unity in Diversity”. In collaboration between Universiti Sains Malaysia Penang and UNITAS MALACOLOGICA (UM), WCM 2016 is hosted in Penang, Malaysia. This is the second time the UM and WCM meetings are held in Asia – what a significant milestone!


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World Economic Forum

World Economic Forum – Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2016, 26-28 June 2016, Tianjin, China

The World Economic Forum (WEF) is a Swiss not-for-profit foundation, and headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. Founded by Professor Klaus Schwab in 1971, the foundation’s mission is cited as “committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas”.

I participated in this year’s Annual Meeting of the New Champions (AMNC) 2016 as a Young Scientist. I also had the opportunity to co-chair an Innovator Hub session as a discussion leader for the topic of “Investing in Oceans”. My other discussion leader is the energetic and vibrant Angela Chen, from Impact Capitalyst. 🙂

World Economic Forum - Annual Meeting of the New Champions in Tianjin, People's Republic of China 2016

Participants at the World Economic Forum – Annual Meeting of the New Champions in Tianjin People’s Republic of China 2016. Copyright by World Economic Forum / Jakob Polacsek

Thank you WEF for this kind invitation for myself and spouse! 😀 We truly enjoyed the discussions and activities organised. It provided me a perspective that gives me renewed energy to continue pursuing my research!

And thank you Agenda for the interview about myself and giant clams!

Q&A: What has the panda got that the giant clam hasn’t?

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China’s first success at giant clam breeding

Thank you Professor Yu Ziniu and Dr Zhang Yuehuan of the South China Sea Institute of Oceanology (SCSIO) for sharing this wonderful news with me! Their research team has recently successfully cultured their first batch of fluted giant clams, and will be publishing their results soon. Not only that, they are now the first group to have successfully done so in China. Congratulations!


Press release about the local workshop on giant clam breeding techniques.

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ICRS 2016 – International Coral Reef Symposium

Aloha everyone! It’s happening once again – The 13th International Coral Reef Symposium is ongoing at tropical Honolulu, Hawaii!

The ICRS is sanctioned by the International Society for Reef Studies (ISRS) and held every four years. It is the primary international meeting focused on coral reef science and management. The Symposium will bring together an anticipated 2,500 coral reef scientists, policy makers and managers from 70 different nations in a forum to present the latest research findings, case histories and management activities, and to discuss the application of scientific knowledge to achieving coral reef sustainability.

Taken from ICRS dedicated website

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Field work – Dongsha Atoll Research Station (19 May to 7 June 2016)

Thanks to Professor Keryea Soong and Professor Li-Lian Liu (National Sun Yat-sen University, Taiwan), the Dongsha Atoll Research Award, and the National Marine Park for supporting our field research on Dongsha Atoll! Also, thanks to L’OrĂ©al Singapore For Women in Science National Fellowship for supporting my research!


Left: Dongsha Atoll National Park. Right: Monument citing “Island far, heart is close”.

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Why did the giant clam cross the road?

Wait a minute – Giant clams walk?!

It is surprising for most people to imagine how giant clams could ‘walk’ around on the reef. When you see a giant clam on coral reefs, you would think that such a large animal like this cannot move very fast on its own. In fact, most people have usually described the adult giant clams as sedentary (or sessile) for the rest of its life!


Mama Jong Clam has remained in her same spot for the last 10 years of monitoring. Photos by Neo ML.

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“Can giant clams see us?”

Visitors often find themselves enthralled by our juvenile giant clams in tanks. As they swipe their hands over a tank, they noticed that the clams will rapidly retract their mantles and shut their shells. A few moments later, they slowly reveal their mantles again.

“How does that happen?”

Clam drawing

Our simple answer is “They can see you!”.

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Eaten by a giant clam

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!”

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