, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 207–227 | Cite as

Distribution, burrowing, and growth rates of the clam Tridacna crocea on interior reef flats

Formation of structures resembling micro atolls
  • W. M. Hamner
  • M. S. Jones


Larvae of the burrowing clam Tridacna crocea (Tridacnidae) settle preferentially on top of detached coral heads lying on the surface of the interior reef flat in the Great Barrier Reef province. This species burrows as it grows, eroding the central top surfaces of coral boulders, producing structures that superficially resemble micro-atolls. Storm surges roll these coral heads onto the now flattened surface, killing the live population of clams, and exposing the fresh underside for unimpeded larval settlement. As these clams grow and burrow into the substratum, the coral head becomes progressively flattened and finally breaks apart. Field observations and growthring data documented growth rate; growth rates plus burrow volumes were converted to annual sediment production. At average population densities approximately 140 gm/m2/yr of coral are eroded. Concomitant with erosion is a calcium carbonate increase in the shell of these clams amounting to 60gm/m2/yr. Assuming a stable population structure, with annual mortality equal to annual estimated growth, total sediment production is 200 gm/m2/yr. Clams are usually aggregated at higher densities, however, with numbers regularly exceeding 100 clams/m2. Consequently maximum sediment production rate locally is often 4,500 gm/m2/yr.


Calcium Carbonate Great Barrier Reef Reef Flat Total Sediment Larval Settlement 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Ahr, W.M., Stanton, R.J., Jr.: The sedimentologic and paleoecologic significance of Lithotrya, a a rock-boring barnacle. J. Sediment. Petrol. 43, 20–23 (1963)Google Scholar
  2. Baines, G.B.K., Beveridge, P. J., Maragos, J.E.: Storms and island building at Funafuti Atoll, Ellice Islands. Proc. Second Int. Coral Reef Symp., Vol. 2, pp 485–496. Brisbane: Great Barrier Reef Committee 1974Google Scholar
  3. Bonham, K.: Growth rate of giant clam Tridacna gigas at Bikini Atoll as revealed by radioautography. Science 149, 300–302 (1965)Google Scholar
  4. Carriker, M.R., Smith, E.H., Wilce, R.T. (eds.): Penetration of calcium carbonate substrates by lower plants and invertebrates. Amer. Zool. 9, 629–1020 (1969)Google Scholar
  5. Clapp, W.F., Kenk, R.: Marine borers an annotated bibliography. Washington, D.C.: Office of Naval Research, Department of the Navy 1963; cited in: Rützler and Rieger (1973) Clark, G.R.II: Mollusk shell: daily growth lines. Science 161, 800–802 (1968)Google Scholar
  6. Connell, J.H.: Population ecology of reef building corals. In: Biology and geology of Coral Reefs, Vol. II. Biology, Vol. 1 (O.A. Jones, R. Endean, eds.), pp. 205–246. New York: Academic Press 1973Google Scholar
  7. Evans, J.W.: The role of Penitella penita (Conrad 1837) (Family Pholadidae) as eroders along the Pacific coast of North America. Ecology 49, 156–159 (1968)Google Scholar
  8. Futterer, D.K.: Significance of the boring sponge Cliona for the origin of fine grained material of carbonate sediments. J. Sediment Petrol. 44, 79–84 (1974)Google Scholar
  9. Goreau, T.F., Goreau, N.I., Yonge, C.M.: On the mode of boring in Fungiacava eilatensis (Bivalvia: Mytilidae). J. Zool., Lond. 166, 55–60 (1972)Google Scholar
  10. Glynn, P.W.: Aspects of the ecology of coral reefs in the western Atlantic region, pp. 271–324. In: Biology and geology of Coral Reefs, Vol. II (O.A. Jones, R. Endean, eds.). New York-London: Academic Press 1973Google Scholar
  11. Hedley, C.: A revision of the Australian Tridacna. Rec. Aust. Mus. 13, 163–172 +plates 27-34+Fig. 1 (1921)Google Scholar
  12. Hein, F.J., Risk, M.J.: Bioerosion of coral heads: inner patch reefs, Florida reef tract. Bull. Mar. Sci. 25, 133–137 (1975)Google Scholar
  13. Jehu, T.J.: Rock-boring organisms as agents in coast erosion. Scottish Geogr. Mag. 34 1–10 (1918); cited in: Neumann (1966)Google Scholar
  14. Kleeman, K.J.: Raumkonkurrenz bei Ätzmuscheln. Mar. Biol. 26, 361–364 (1974)Google Scholar
  15. Manton, S.M.: Ecological surveys of coral reefs. Great Barrier Reef Exped. 1928–1929. Sci. Rep. 3, 273–312, British Mus. (Nat. Hist.) (1936)Google Scholar
  16. McLean, R.F.: Nomenclature for rock-destroying organisms. Nature (Lond.) 240, 490 (1972)Google Scholar
  17. McMichael, D.F.: Growth rate, population size, and mantle coloration in the small giant clam Tridacna maxima (Röding), at One Tree Island, Capricorn Group, Queensland. Proc. Second Int. Coral Reef Symp., Vol. 1, pp. 241–254. Brisbane: Great Barrier Reef Committee 1974Google Scholar
  18. Milliman, J.D.: Marine carbonates, Part 1. Recent sedimentary carbonates. New York: Springer 1973Google Scholar
  19. Neumann, A.C.: Observations on coastal erosion in Bermuda and measurements of the boring rate of the sponge Cliona lampa. Limnol. Oceanogr. 2, 92–108 (1966)Google Scholar
  20. Purchon, R.D.: A note on the biology of Tridacna crocea Lam. Proc. Malac. Soc. Lond. 31, 95–110 (1955)Google Scholar
  21. Randall, J.E.: The effect of fishes on coral reefs. Proc. Second Int. Coral Reef Symp. Vol. 1, pp. 159–166. Brisbane: Great Barrier Reef Committee 1974Google Scholar
  22. Rützler, K.: The role of burrowing sponges in bioerosion. Oecologia (Berl.) 19, 203–216 (1975)Google Scholar
  23. Rützler, K., Rieger, G.: Sponge burrowing: fine structure of Cliona lampa penetrating calcareous substrata. Mar. Biol. 21, 144–162 (1973)Google Scholar
  24. Safriel, U.N.: Vermetid gastropods and intertidal reefs in Israel and Bermuda. Science 186, 1113–1115 (1974)Google Scholar
  25. Salvat, B.: La jaune benthique de lagon de l'atoll de Reao (Tuamotu, Polynésie). Cahiers du Pacif. 16, 29–110 (1972)Google Scholar
  26. Scoffin, T.P., Garrett, P.: Processes in the formation and preservation of internal structure in Bermuda patch reefs. Proc. Second Int. Coral Reef Symp., Vol. 2, pp. 429–448. Brisbane: Great Barrier Reef Committee 1974Google Scholar
  27. Warme, J.E., Scanland, T.B., Marshall, N.F.: Submarine canyon erosion: contribution of marine rock burrowers. Science 173, 1127–1129 (1971)Google Scholar
  28. Yamaguchi M.: Estimating growth parameters from growth rate data. Oecologia (Berl.) 20, 321–332 (1975)Google Scholar
  29. Yonge, C.M.: Mode of life, feeding, digestion and symbiosis with zooxanthellae in the Tridacnidae. Great Barrier Reef Expedition 1928–1929. Sci. Rep. 1, 283–321, British Mus. (Nat. Hist.) (1936)Google Scholar
  30. Yonge, C.M.: Adaptation to rock boring in Botula and Lithophaga (Lamellibranchia, Mytilidae) with a discussion on the evolution of this habit. Quart. J. micr. Sci. 96, 383–410 (1955)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1976

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. M. Hamner
    • 1
  • M. S. Jones
    • 1
  1. 1.Australian Institute of Marine ScienceTownsvilleAustralia

Personalised recommendations