Genetic diversity of giant clams (Tridacna spp.) and their associated Symbiodinium in the central Red Sea

The biodiversity of the Red Sea remains relatively understudied, particularly for invertebrate taxa. Documenting present patterns of biodiversity is essential for better understanding Red Sea reef ecosystems and how these ecosystems may be impacted by stressors (such as fishing and climate change). Several species of giant clams (genus Tridacna) are reported from the Red Sea, although the majority of research effort has occurred in the Gulf of Aqaba. We investigated the genetic diversity (16S rDNA) of the Tridacna species found in the central Saudi Arabian Red Sea. We also investigated the genetic diversity (ITS rDNA) of symbiotic dinoflagellates Symbiodinium associated with these clams. Samples were collected from nine reefs on a cross-shelf gradient near Thuwal, Saudi Arabia. Two species, T. squamosa and T. maxima, were recorded, with the latter being the most abundant. Tridacna squamosina, a species recently reported in the northern Red Sea, was not found, suggesting that this species is not present or is very rare in our study region. All tridacnids sampled were found to harbor Symbiodinium grouped in Clade A, considered an opportunistic, heat-tolerant symbiont group in anemones and corals. The consistent association with Clade A Symbiodinium in central Red Sea tridacnids may reflect the consequence of adaptation to the relatively extreme conditions of the Red Sea. This study contributes to an ever-growing catalog of Red Sea biodiversity and serves as important baseline information for a region experiencing dynamic pressures.

Pappas MK, He S, Hardenstine RS, Kanee H, Berumen ML (2017) Genetic diversity of giant clams (Tridacna spp.) and their associated Symbiodinium in the central Red Sea. Marine Biodiversity. Available:

This work was made possible with support from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) Visiting Student Research Program and the Red Sea Research Center. For assistance with field sampling, we thank A. Monroe, N. Kandler, M. Wooster, S. Wilson, M. Emms, and F. Gizzi. Logistical support was provided by the KAUST Coastal and Marine Resources Core Lab and members of the Reef Ecology Lab. For assistance with lab work, data analysis, and figure preparation, we gratefully acknowledge the assistance from R. Arrigoni and T. Sinclair-Taylor. Funding for this work was provided by KAUST (baseline research funds to MLB).

Springer Nature

Marine Biodiversity


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