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  • Back home, my friends call me nicknames,

  • such as "The Giant Clam Girl,"

  • "Clam Queen,"

  • or, "The Mother of Clams."

  • (Laughter)

  • This is because every time I see them,

  • I talk nonstop about giant clams all day,

  • every day.

  • Giant clams are these massive and colorful shelled marine animals,

  • the largest of its kind.

  • Just look at this shell.

  • The biggest recorded individual was four-and-a-half-feet long

  • and weighed about 550 pounds.

  • That is almost as heavy as three baby elephants.

  • South Pacific legends once described giant clams as man-eaters

  • that would lie in wait on the seabed to trap unsuspecting divers.

  • A story goes that a diver had lost his legs

  • while trying to retrieve a pearl from a giant clam.

  • I thought, "Really?"

  • So out of curiosity,

  • I did an experiment using myself as bait.

  • (Laughter)

  • I carefully placed my hand into the clam's mouth and waited.

  • Hmm ...

  • I still have my hand.

  • It seems that these gentle giants would rather retreat

  • and protect their fleshy bodies

  • than feed on me.

  • So much for those killer clam myths!

  • Unfortunately, the reality is,

  • we are the giant clams' biggest threat.

  • Considered a delicacy throughout the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans,

  • giant clams have been traditionally fished as seafood.

  • Fishermen are particularly interested in their adductor muscles,

  • which are organs that hold the two shells together like a hinge.

  • Just for their muscles,

  • giant clams were almost hunted to extinction

  • between the 1960s and 1980s.

  • Clamshells are also popular in the ornamental trade

  • as jewelry and for display.

  • In the South China Sea,

  • fishermen went out of their way to collect fossilized clamshells

  • by digging through large areas of coral reefs.

  • These were later carved and sold as so-called "ivory handicrafts" in China.

  • Giant clams, dead or alive, are not safe from us.

  • It's a "clamity!"

  • (Laughter)

  • (Applause)

  • With the spotlight on more charismatic marine animals

  • such as the whales and coral reefs,

  • it is easy to forget that other marine life needs our help, too.

  • My fascination with giant clams got me started on conservation research

  • to fill in the knowledge gaps on their ecology and behavior.

  • One of the discoveries that we made was that giant clams could walk

  • across the seafloor.

  • Yes, you heard me right:

  • they can walk.

  • To find out,

  • we placed numerous baby clams on a grid.

  • Now watch what happens over 24 hours.

  • We think that walking is important for getting away from predators

  • and finding mates for breeding.

  • While it can hard to imagine any movement in these enormous animals,

  • giant clams up to 400 pounds can still walk,

  • they just move slower.

  • During my PhD, I discovered more secrets about the giant clams.

  • But there was something missing in my work.

  • I found myself asking,

  • "Why should people care about conserving giant clams?" --

  • other than myself, of course.

  • (Laughter)

  • It turns out that giant clams have a giant impact on coral reefs.

  • These multitasking clams are reef builders,

  • food factories,

  • shelters for shrimps and crabs

  • and water filters,

  • all rolled into one.

  • In a nutshell,

  • giant clams play a major contributing role

  • as residents of their own reef home,

  • and just having them around keeps the reef healthy.

  • And because they can live up to 100 years old,

  • giant clams make vital indicators of coral reef health.

  • So when giant clams start to disappear from coral reefs,

  • their absence can serve as an alarm bell

  • for scientists to start paying attention,

  • similar to the canary in a coal mine.

  • But giant clams are endangered.

  • The largest clam in the world is facing the threat of extinction,

  • with more than 50 percent of the wild population severely depleted.

  • And the ecological benefits of having giant clams on coral reefs

  • are likely to continue only if populations are healthy,

  • making their conservation paramount.

  • So I stand here today to give a voice to the giant clams,

  • because I care a whole lot for these amazing animals,

  • and they deserve to be cared for.

  • It is time for the giant clams to step out of their shells,

  • and show the world that they, too, can be the heroes of the oceans.

  • Thank you very much.

  • (Applause)

Back home, my friends call me nicknames,

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C2 US TED giant clam coral reef marine

【TED】Mei Lin Neo: The fascinating secret lives of giant clams (The fascinating secret lives of giant clams | Mei Lin Neo)

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    Zenn posted on 2017/10/12
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