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January 31, 2013

A collection of giant clams which were seized by customs officials has arrived at the Blue Planet Aquarium in Cheshire Oaks.

The southern giant clams, which can grow up to 60cms in length, were part of a large consignment which was intercepted and confiscated after they were illegally imported in to the country.

They were initially transferred to ZSL London Zoo where aquarists have been looking after them since their seizure.

After spending time in the aquarium’s quarantine, the fist-sized shellfish will go on display in the aquarium’s tropical oceans area.

Blue Planet Aquarium’s Assistant Curator Andrea Swatman said: “We’ve volunteered to look after five of the giant clams here at the aquarium and they are impressive looking specimens.

“They are one of the largest types of giant clam in the world. They are also known as the smooth giant clam as the shell is quite flat in appearance and it is only when they begin to open out that you get to see the beautiful colouration and markings of the mollusc inside.

“These five specimens range in size with some being about the size of a pair of clasped hand. However they all still have a lot of growing to do as adults can easily measure half-a-metre in length or more.

“Records show there are wild specimens which have been alive for more than 100 years so they are a very long-lived species,” she added.

Found in waters around Australia, Cocos Islands, Fiji, Indonesia, New Caledonia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vietnam, the giant southern clam is mainly a filter feeder.

However it also uses a symbiotic algae to produce additional food via photosynthesis.

A popular food item, the clam has been designated as being ‘Vulnerable’ in the wild by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

A ‘Vulnerable’ species is one which is likely to become ‘Endangered’ unless the circumstances threatening its survival and reproduction improve.