Clams: The Tranny Shellfish

Giant clams, once common along the coasts of the Philippine Islands before being hunted to near extinction, are making a comeback.

The change is thanks to an innovative program begun in 1985 by a marine biologist horrified by the clams’ disappearance. Scientists make regular stops to collect clam sperm and eggs, shooting the clams up with serotonin to encourage the process when necessary. They then mix the eggs and sperms in plastic bags, creating a kind of low-tech in vitro fertilization.

OK. That’s all fine and well, and since giant clams are said to be absolutely delicious, I’ll go for any scheme that brings them back. But the part of the story that blew my mind was this: “Clams are male when they are young, enter a transition stage when they are around eight producing eggs and sperm before crossing over and becoming female.”

Whoa! What kind of crazy shellfish does that? I knew clown fish were into gender-bending, and God knows banana slugs do some pretty wild things, self-fertilization-wise. But who knew clams were so gender-flexible?

Well, maybe marine biologists.

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