Giant Man-Eating Clam
The Giant Man-eating Clam has fascinated and destroyed both the curious the greedy alike. It has been made famous in legends and lore for its enormous size and its equally impressive and valuable pearl. Although, perhaps the most intriguing tales are of its rumored appetite for divers, as it clamps down on the arms and legs of those who come to plunder its prized pearl.
This simple creature consists of two, heavy, calcium carbonate shells with four or five wavy folds. The shells are opened and closed with a tough and powerful muscle and the organs and bodily systems are housed inside. When the clam is open, the colorful mantle protrudes from inside allowing the symbiotic algae to receive the available sunlight. The mantle also contains thousands of tiny, simple photoreceptor eyespots that allow it to detect variations in the lighting of the surrounding environment.
Genetics and Reproduction
The giant clam generally spawns between the full and new moons of the summer months depending on the water quality and conditions of the sea. These animals are hermaphrodites and release both sperm and eggs simultaneously into the water. Nearby clams detect specific chemicals in the water that trigger them to also spawn if they are still able to do so. Individuals may release over 500 million eggs during this one time. Eggs are fertilized randomly in the water currents and then begin their journey to becoming new clams.
Growth Rate & Stages
This species begins as a free floating egg that is quickly fertilized as it begins its journey through the warm coastal waters. After about twelve hours it hatches into a larval form and begin to grow its shell and then foot. It uses its foot to help it swim and move around on the sea floor. After about a week it settles to the bottom and begins to seek out a favorable environment. This may take several additional weeks before finding a suitable location. After about ten years of growth it is considered a juvenile and a mature clam at fifteen years. It grows at about one inch per year for the first five years and then slows to about a half inch per year for the next five years. The growth rate continues to slow to between a half inch and a quarter inch per year after that, depending upon the light, food, and temperature conditions of the sea. During the first 100 years, typical clams will grow about a meter in length and weigh about 100 pounds. After 500 years, they will be about five feet in length and weigh close to 500 pounds. If they live long enough to reach 1000 years in age, they will span about ten feet in length and weigh in at over 1000 pounds.
Ecology and Habitats
These clams prefer to live in the warm, shallow seas of equatorial coral reefs and underwater boulder fields. They require clear water to allow the sunlight to reach their symbiotic photosynthesizing algae and strong water current to bring them nutrients. The stable water conditions near the equator and its ocean currents provide constant temperatures, salinity, water clarity, brightness, and dissolved solids that promote the clams growth and wellbeing.
Dietary Needs and Habits
As a stationary creature this clam has two main ways of obtaining food from its environment. The first is through filter feeding from the water currents that flow over the clams open shell. The second is from the symbiotic algae that grows in its fleshy mantle. Here the algae creates food and energy from the sunlight that reaches the clam. In adult clams about 2/3 to 3/4 of their nutrients are acquired from the symbiosis with the algae, whereas juveniles have the opposite, with filter feeding as their primary method of obtaining nutrients. Legends do persist of ferocious, giant clams closing their heavy shells on divers, swimmers, fish, and crustaceans that get too close to its open mouth. Sailors speculate that the giant clam may be crushing up their catch so that the entrails and blood can be sucked inside and digested by the stomach. Others claim that the giant clam just outright chews up and eats anything that it traps between its huge shells.
Due to its tropical environment, this clam species does not encounter any significant seasonal changes. It has a warmer season and a slightly warmer season, with temperature and available sunlight remaining about the same all year long. Only the summer combinations of slightly warmer waters, brighter sunlight intensity, and a slight decrease in water salinity will trigger the release of eggs and mating will begin.
There is not communication or cooperation between members of this species. Whenever tough times or threats occur, juveniles can clap their thick shells together and propel themselves away from any perceived danger or to find a more suitable habitat. However, once the more mature clams have found an ideal environment, they attach themselves to the bedrock or coral reefs, preventing them from traveling any longer. The only thing that they are really able to do now is to close up their heavy shells and protect themselves until any perceived threats have gone away.
Although these enormous mollusks can be found living together in coral reefs and rocky beds, they are not social animals and do not seem to be aware of others of their species. They are a reactionary creature, ruled by environmental factors such as time, tide, lighting, and water chemistry.
Domestication of this species is near impossible. Their sheer size and water requirements dictate that attempts at collection, relocation and domestication be focused on only the smaller, young clams. These efforts seem to work the best with the smallest of individuals, but inevitable fail as stable water parameters and feeding becomes exponentially more difficult as time goes on and the clams grow. Records indicate that all attempts at prolonged captivity have so far resulted in the clams’ eventual demise.
Uses, Products & Exploitation
Due to this clams numerous and valuable uses, it is in high demand and creates a very competitive market. The most common use for this species is as a versatile delicacy and food source for the nobility. Its rarity brings many bidders when one of these creatures is harvested from the dangerous sea. This clam is also seen as an aphrodisiac by many people and they eagerly wait for one to hit the open market and quite often the black market as well. After consuming the flesh, the shell is regularly sold as an eclectic and rare decoration, often adorning the rooms and halls of the aristocracy. Various parts of the clam are also collected and prepared by water wizards, elementalists, and priests for use in magical preparations, rituals, ceremonies, and spells. Although this species is used in many ways, making the owner very wealthy, it all pales in comparison to the value of the pearl that is hidden deep inside of the clam. Depending on the color shade, size, and shape of the pearl, it can be sold for thousands of gold pieces, granting its finder overnight fame and fortune. These pearls are most often carved into beautiful figurines or art pieces or even used atop powerful magical staves.
Geographic Origin and Distribution
Although it is a dwindling and rare species, it can usually be found living in the Vastus Ocean and several of its adjoining seas and island areas. Perhaps the most famous of its locations are The Ko Salas Islands, found in The Ko Mora Sea near The Shadow Coast. Other places include the Coral Coast and small regions of the Daria Ocean. Rumors suggest that the remote waters around Potonula Isle and the farthest reaches of the Vastus hold the largest and most varied of the species.
That of a typical mollusk.
Perception and Sensory Capabilities
This species has very few sensory abilities, especially when it is mature. These abilities are limited to feeling slight vibrations in the water and to detecting basic light changes in the environment around it. Both of these senses are housed in the fleshy and colorful mantle that fills the space between the two open shells. The mantle is filled with thousands of tiny eyespots that enable it to detect changes in the lighting of the sea around it. Distinguishing these variations allows the clam to change the position of the mantle so that it may acquire more sunlight for its symbiotic algae as well as warn it of any approaching dangers swimming nearby.
Symbiotic and Parasitic organisms
This creature shares an important relationship with a symbiotic, unicellular algae that lives within the fleshy mantle of the clam. This algae takes in sunlight and uses the waste products of the clam and turns them into nutrients that the clam can then feed upon. The algae gains protection, access to sunlight, and vital chemicals in return for creating an important and reliable food source for an otherwise immovable and hungry creature. Additionally several varieties of algae eating fish, snails, and shrimp frequent the large clam in order to clean and eat any encrusting algae that may begin to cover the heavy shells. These small animals seem to go unrecognized by the giant and are left alone not eaten.
“Aye. Pearls as big as your head I tell ya. And just sitting there waiting for us to take them. Just hold your breath and dive down to the bottom and cut it free. I’ll pull you up quick as a wink.”
Tridacna Cannibalis Gigantis
These enormous clams are believed to have similar ancestors with their smaller cousins, but for some reason have developed immense proportions and exceptionally long lives.
These clams routinely live for over 100 years with many reaching 500 years in age. The full extent of their lifespan is unknown and many believe that they can live for 1000 years or more, and some say that they can live forever with a stable environment.
Despite its slow growth and development, this species is not under any governmental protection plans or conservation laws. As such it has become a quickly diminishing resource and only the dangerous of its environment have been keeping them from becoming endangered and extinct.
Although these animals are usually measured by length, their heights are generally found to be about 60 to 65% of their overall length. Ordinarily most are found to be about 22 inches tall, while others can grow to a full meter or even 75 inches in height.
Known weights are typically for the shells as the flesh is only about ten percent of the total weight and is very quickly consumed by predators or scavengers. Weights generally range from about 100 pounds for the standard sizes and reach about 500 pounds for the more rare five foot lengths. Those truly enormous, exceeding ten feet in length, are said to weigh over 1000 pounds.
The most commonly found individuals are roughly a meter in length, but several are known to have attained five foot spans, and reports exist of some even eclipsing ten feet in length as well.
This clam species is formed from two large, close fitting, wavy shaped shells that are held together by a very strong muscle. Inside of the protective shells are the simple, yet vital organs of the creature.
Body Tint, Colouring and Marking
While their outside shells range from shades of medium grey to white colors, their fleshy insides can be found in a rainbow of colors and patterns. White, tan, grey, yellow, and orange are the most common colors, but green, red, blue, and even purple are occasionally found as well.
“Pull us out of the water! Quick before the sharks come! The blasted clam smashed down on Will’s arm and I had to cut it off before he drown. There’s blood everywhere. Quick, I see a fin. Pull us out!”