Abstract: Ballesta-Artero et al 2017: Environmental factors regulating gaping activity of the bivalve Arctica islandica in Northern Norway


Arctica islandica is the longest-living non-colonial animal known at present. It inhabits coastal waters in the North Atlantic and its annual shell increments are widely used for paleoclimatic reconstructions. There is no consensus, however, about the intra-annual timing of its feeding activity and growth. This research aims to identify the main environmental drivers of A. islandica valve gape to clarify the ambiguity surrounding its seasonal activity. A lander was deployed from February 2014 to September 2015 on the sea bottom at Ingøya, Norway (71°03′N, 24°05′E) containing living A. islandica specimens (70.17 ± 0.95 mm SE) in individual containers. Each individual was attached to an electrode unit that measured the distance between their valves (valve gape) every minute. Individuals were followed for various lengths of time, and in some cases replaced by smaller individuals (54.34 ± 0.63 mm SE). The lander was also equipped with instruments to simultaneously monitor temperature, salinity, [Chl-a], turbidity, and light. There was a significant difference in the average monthly valve gape (P value < 0.01), with monthly means of 19–84% of the total valve gape magnitude. The experimental population was largely inactive October–January, with an average daily gape <23%. During this period the clams opened at high amplitude once or twice a month for 1–3 days. Seasonal cycles of sea water temperature and [Chl-a] were temporally offset from each other, with temperature lagging [Chl-a] by about 2 months. Multiple regression analyses showed that bivalve gaping activity was most closely correlated with variable [Chl- a], and to a much smaller degree with photoperiod and temperature.