Threatened coral reef megafauna: a genomic approach to support the conservation of giant clams.

Project Details


Giant clams are among the most spectacular but also the most
endangered marine megafaunal invertebrates. They fulfil many
important functions in the coral reef ecosystem, but their large size
and easy accessibility have caused overfishing and collapse of
natural stocks and local extinctions. Giant clams are harvested for
their meat, their shells and the aquarium trade. Climate change is
also threatening them by increased water temperature (bleaching)
and ocean acidification. In order to protect the known 12 giant clam
species they are protected by CITES, Nine of them are on the IUCN
Red List of Threatened Species. The basis for an effective protection
and conservation of giant clams is precise knowledge on their
diversity. However, there are many uncertainties regarding the shellbased taxonomy of giant clams and genetic research has revealed a
number of cryptic species. The aim of this study is to use genomewide sequence data obtained by Next Generation Sequencing in
order to investigate genetic variation of all giant clam species across
their distributional range in the Indo-West Pacific. This will be linked
to shell morphology in an integrated taxonomy approach, providing
crucial information on species and genetic diversity for conservation.
Additionally, heat tolerance to bleaching will be investigated in a
transcriptomics approach. The results will be applied for genetic
species identification in a simple DNA identification assay that can be
used by CITES authorities.
Effective start/end date1/01/2331/12/26


  • connectivity
  • giant clams
  • adaptation

Flemish discipline codes in use since 2023

  • Conservation and biodiversity
  • Invertebrate biology
  • Marine ecology
  • Population, ecological and evolutionary genetics
  • Animal genetics


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