Researchers at Cochin University of Science and Technology (Cusat) have identified a new genus of clam called ‘Indosphenia’ and a new species called ‘Indosphenia Kayalum’ from Cochin backwaters. This is part of the series of taxonomic studies being undertaken by the varsity in the backdrop of ambiguity in several of the species in these waters.
“We have extensive bivalve fisheries, specifically mussels, oysters and clams, with an estimated annual production of 84,483 tonnes in our waters across the country. Clams form a major portion of the fishery in our coastal waters, lakes and estuaries with a potential yield of 113,189 tonnes and the export from India is dominated by the black clams, short-neck and others,” said S Bijoy Nandan, head, department of marine biology, microbiology & biochemistry, school of marine sciences, Cusat.
Nandan said it is really important to have a deep knowledge on the taxonomy and species status of the clams without any ambiguity
“Most of the taxonomic reports were based on the studies and reports by H B Preston (1871–1945), a prolific British collector and shell dealer who authored and reported many new taxa from diverse localities from India,” he added.
Researchers said the taxonomy of many bivalve species described by Preston has been confusing, at least in part because Preston did not describe details. In this context, a team led by Nandan; P Graham Oliver of National Museum of Wales, UK; and Jayachandran P R, department of marine biology, is exploring such taxonomic discrepancies of bivalve clams of the backwaters of Kerala by morpho taxonomic and molecular methods mooted by Preston about five decades back.
The specific name kayalum is derived from ‘kayal’ — the Malayalam name for backwaters. The present naming is to make people aware about the ecological importance of the complex backwater ecosystems for conservation of the endemic fauna.
The other species recognized under the new genus are Indosphenia cochinensis, I. abbreviata, I. abbreviata chilkaensis and I. sowerbyi. The work of the team is published in journal ZooKeys.