The disco clam, so named because light flashes from its mirrored "lips," turns out to be the disco ball from hell. New research has found that the clam's impressive light show attracts prey, which may be rendered immobile by noxious, acidic mucus produced by the busy bivalve.
The unusual findings, reported at the 2015 annual conference of the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology in West Palm Beach, Fla., solve the mystery as to why the disco clam (Ctenoides ales) puts on such a flashy light show.
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At first it was thought that the clam might be trying to woo mates, but that sentiment might have been felt more by researcher Lindsey Dougherty of UC Berkeley. She was thrilled when she first encountered the unique clams in a dark, underwater cave during a dive in Indonesia.
"It was on that trip I first saw the disco clam, and immediately fell in love," reminisced Dougherty in a press release.
She and her collaborators, Professor Roy Caldwell and undergraduate Alexandria Neibergall, brought some of the clams back to a lab to investigate why and how the clam's flash.