S. Rossbach, V. Saderne, A. Antón and C.M. Duarte
Tropical giant clams of the subfamily Tridacninae, including the species Tridacna maxima, are unique among bivalves as they live in a symbiotic relationship with unicellular algae and generally function as net photoautotrophs. Light is therefore crucial for these species to thrive. Here we examine the light dependency of calcification rates of T. maxima in the central Red Sea as well as the patterns of its abundance with depth in the field. Red Sea T. maxima show the highest densities at a depth of 3 m with 0.82±0.21 and 0.11±0.03 individuals m−2 (mean ± SE) at sheltered and exposed sites, respectively. Experimental assessment of net calcification (µmol CaCO3 cm−2 h−1) and gross primary production (µmol O2 cm−2 h−1) under seven light levels (1061, 959, 561, 530, 358, 244, and 197 µmol quanta m−2 s−1) showed net calcification rates to be significantly enhanced under light intensities corresponding to a water depth of 4 m (0.65±0.03 µmol CaCO3 cm−2 h−1; mean ± SE), while gross primary production was 2.06±0.24 µmol O2 cm−2 h−1 (mean ± SE). We found a quadratic relationship between net calcification and tissue dry mass (DM in gram), with clams of an intermediate size (about 15 g DM) showing the highest calcification. Our results show that the Red Sea giant clam T. maxima stands out among bivalves as a remarkable calcifier, displaying calcification rates comparable to other tropical photosymbiotic reef organisms such as corals.