Bivalve research

We are using molecular techniques to classify bivalves and to investigate specialist chemosynthetic bivalve groups.

Our bivalve research has two primary branches:

Deep phylogeny

Molecular techniques have revolutionised our understanding of relationships among organisms, leading to new classification schemes. We are contributing to such a scheme for bivalves: the International Bivalve Tree of Life Project.

Chemosynthetic bivalves

Bivalves are usually filter-feeders, straining suspended matter and food particles from water. 

However, the Lucinidae family of bivalves thrive in thick sediments with low oxygen levels, and instead gain their energy through a symbiotic relationship with specialised bacteria. 

These chemosynthetic bacteria live within the cells of the bivalve's gills, oxidising hydrogen sulphide into organic matter.

The Lucinidae are ancient and widespread, despite their specialised mode of life and narrow range of habitats. Our taxonomic and phylogenetic studies are revealing unexpectedly high diversity.

Project staff
Glossary

Chemosynthetic
Describes an organism that synthesises organic matter using inorganic molecules or methane, rather than sunlight as in photosynthesis. Where ocean waters are high in sulphides, whole ecosystems can be built around chemosynthetic microorganisms.