Disco Clams Produce Light to Defend Against Predators

Disco Clam
(Photo : Flickr / lakshmioct01 / CC)

The Ctenoides ales, popularly known as the disco clam, produces its own light show to deter predators attempting to attack it, the Washington Post reported.

This discovery was made by University of California Berkeley grad student Lindsey Dougherty after observing the behavior of the orange-colored saltwater clam.

According to Dougherty, the clam is able to create flashing lights through the small silica balls lining its lips. These balls reflect visible light and create a shimmering display when the lips are rolled back and forth.

At first, researchers thought disco clams produce light to attract potential mates. However, after studying the animals, Dougherty said their 40 eyes are not perceptive enough to detect the light coming from other disco clams.

"We did not find much chemical or visual attraction to one another, and research into their eyes suggests they may not be able to perceive the flashing in one another," she told Live Science.

Dougherty theorized that the clams use this characteristic to both catch prey and ward off predators.

Like the flashing lures on a fishing line, the clams may use their reflective lips to attract plankton, their natural food source

In serving as a defense mechanism, Dougherty noted that the clams create more flashes when in the presence of predators. In fact, when threatened, the number of flashes produced per second by the animal rises from 1.5 to 2.5.

The flashing lights are not meant to visually impair predators. Instead, they serve as a warning to other animals about what might happen to them if they attack the clam.

Through observations, the researchers saw how shrimps retreated after approaching a disco clam. A closer investigation revealed that aside from the silica balls, the lips of the clams are also laden with sulfur, according to Science Mag.

The disco clam may use its flashing lights to warn predators about the toxic substance in its body.

"If you're flashing and saying, 'I'm distasteful; don't eat me,' that's one thing, but you have to sort of back it up," Dougherty told Live Science.

Tags Disco Clams, Animals, Science

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