HomeScience and ResearchScientific ResearchFirst Exclusively 'underworld' Mollusc Found In America

First Exclusively ‘underworld’ Mollusc Found In America

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In the north of Brazil, a species of bivalve that lives solely underground was found for the first time outside of Europe.

Bivalve molluscs, which include clams, oysters, mussels, and scallops, are considered rare. To date, only three of these mussel genuses have been confirmed in the world, all of which are found in southeastern Europe. Also, bivalves are not your typical “underworld” inhabitants because they are almost immobile and can’t live in places with low levels of oxygen.

Dr. Luiz Ricardo L. Simone of the Museum of Zoology at the University of So Paulo, and Dr. Rodrigo Lopes Ferreira, a professor at the Federal University of Lavras, have published a study in the open-access journal Subterranean Biology detailing the discovery of an apparently cave-bound (or troglobitic) clam species from northern Brazil.

The mollusk, which is called Eupera troglobia, has characteristics of creatures that don’t belong in the sun, such as a lack of pigmentation, a smaller size, a thin shell, and fewer but bigger eggs.

It’s interesting to note that Eupera troglobia was first reported in a report on a faunal survey of a cave in northern Brazil in 2006. The evidence was swiftly ignored, with the conclusion that the clam had been transported into the cave by water.

Dr. Rodrigo Lopes Ferreira examined the report in 2010 and noticed the clams’ depigmentation. He looked over the collected specimens from that study, wondering if he was looking at a troglobite, but he couldn’t find any of the discolored bivalve.

His crew returned to the cave ten years later to look for depigmented shells. Despite the cave being half flooded, the researchers were able to locate the specimens they required on the cave’s walls.

Given the treasure troves in their holdings, the scientists conclude that their discovery is the latest reminder of how critical it is to conserve fragile subterranean habitats.

Meanwhile, caves in Brazil are now under far greater threat as a result of newly changed rules.

Image Credit: Getty

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