What Clam Thermometers Tell Us About Past Climates

Read the full post at Sapiens.

At first glance, the butter clam (Saxidomus gigantea) is an unassuming bivalve. Found in the Pacific Ocean from Alaska down to central California, butter clams are large—up to 5 inches across—and have a bulky shell tinted a buttery yellow. Prized as a food, they’re dug commercially and for sport, and in some places they are farmed. However, wild butter clams can pose a significant hazard to those who wish to consume them, because they sometimes absorb harmful toxins from the algae they eat, and a small amount can prove deadly. (In warmer water, the algae containing these toxins will often “bloom,” increasing rapidly and immensely in population size, meaning that the clams absorb a lot more of the toxin. It is when these blooms occur that the clams can become lethal.)

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