Pacific Strawberry Cockle
Fragum unedo (Linnaeus, 1758)
Family Cardiidae (Heart Cockles and Giant Clams)
This species was one of the more common found during our Moreton Bay Expedition off of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. It ranges throughout the Indo-Pacific tropics. The apricot- to peach-sized bivalve lives on shallow water mudflats, nestled at the surface among other shells and seagrass blades. It does not burrow, and like other heart cockles, relies on a powerful, muscular foot to “leap” itself away from predators. Clearly visible in this close-up photograph are the tube-like apertures (they are not true siphons, lacking the proper musculature for withdrawing the tubes) and the fringe of sensory tentacles capable of sensing changes in the environment. Strawberry Cockles are so-named because of their shape and coloration, plump and pointed, light-colored but with reddish flecks (imitating the seeds on a strawberry).
Evolution on the Half Shell...
The Assembling the Tree of Life: Bivalvia project (BivAToL) is a part of the Assembling the Tree of Life initiative, a large research effort sponsored by the National Science Foundation. Its goal is to reconstruct the evolutionary origins of all living things.
Jetsam & Flotsam
Some of the BivATOL team met in early May at the Mote Marine Laboratory’s Tropical Research Station at Summerland Key, FL for a combined collecting trip and coding workshop. Both activities are essential to our project’s goal of determining the phylogenetic relationships among the bivalve families.
After collection, many of the species’ visible and molecular characteristics must be compared and “coded,” after which the phylogenetic computer analyses will be run to produce the final “tree” from which a hypothesis of relationships can be made. Below is an example of a portion of such a phylogenetic tree. Families that are on nearby branches are more closely related to each other than those further away.