Royal B.C. Museum expert discovers new species of clam

Curator has discovered a new species of clam which lives deep off the coast of Vancouver Island

  • Nov. 27, 2014 11:00 a.m.

Royal B.C. Museum curator of invertebrates Melissa Frey is happy as a clam about her latest discovery.

Thanks to a sharp eye and a specimen found within in the museum’s collection, Frey has discovered a new species of clam which lives deep off the coast of Vancouver Island.

“When I first saw the specimen, I suspected it was special – turned out there appeared to be no similar species from this coast in the existing taxonomic literature, suggesting that indeed this species was new to science,” Frey said.

The clam, collected by Fisheries and Oceans Canada at about 1,000 metres depth off of Quatsino Sound in 2004, is now a one-of-a-kind find.

The first telltale sign that the clam is unique is in its shell, which has unusual scalloping, or curved projections, on an edge.

Further unique traits not so plain to the naked eye were also identified by Dr. Graham Oliver, a bivalve expert at the National Museum of Wales, who, with Frey, co-authored a recent article in the journal Zootaxa announcing the new species.

The species’ scientific name, Ascetoaxinus quatsinoensis, is a tribute to both its curious shape and its home.

The discovery of a new species of marine invertebrate is rare; Frey estimates it occurs about twice per year for B.C. ecosystems.