Systematics of marine Bivalvia

Within this theme, projects fall into three research areas:

Chemosymbiotic bivalves

Staff: Graham Oliver, Anna Holmes


Taxonomy and Functional Morphology of Chemosynthetic Bivalves

The families Solemyidae, Thyasiridae, Lucinidae, Vesicomyidae and Bathymodiolidae are chemosymbiotic, deriving their nutrition from symbiotic bacteria living in their gills. There is currently considerable interest in these taxa as they are frequently found in hot vents, cold seeps and organically enriched environments. The Thyasiridae are perhaps the least studied from a taxonomic perspective and we have for a number of years been describing new species and developing taxonomic tools for them. Our most recent contribution was a joint project with Aviero University, Portugal on the Thyasiridae of the mud volcanoes of the Gulf of Cadiz.

This study continues with material from the deep water Solemyidae, most in the genus Acharax. This material has been largely supplied by the University of Bremmen (H. Sahling) and is from Indonesia, Alaska, Portugal and Nicaragua from depths of up to 5000 metres.

Past research on chemosymbiotic bivalves

We are sent specimens from all over the world and have written on chemosymbiotic bivalves from numerous locations worldwide: the Mid-Atlantic Ridge; off the coast of Chile; from the Cascadia Basin (northeast Pacific Ocean); and from the North Sea. Check our staff pages for publication lists.

Bivalves of the Western Indian Ocean

Staff: Graham Oliver, Anna Holmes

Leptaxinus indusarium

Bivalves from the Oman Margin (50-3500m)

Material from the RRS Discovery cruise is being used to examine the functional morphology and taxonomy of species living in the oxygen minimum zone.

Past research in the Western Indian Ocean

Three areas from this region have been studied by our staff in the past – publications can be viewed on the staff pages.

Seychelles plateau and Rodrigues lagoon

We collaborated with the Royal Geographical Society and the British Institute of Geographers to take part in the programme “Shoals of Capricorn” which was run from 1998-2001. The aims were to investigate the remote Mascarene Plateau and develop knowledge and skills for the management and protection of its resources. Museum staff visited the Seychelles and Rodrigues in 1999 and 2000 and a marine Biodiversity Workshop was run on Rodrigues in 2001.

Bivalves of the Red Sea

Initially a book was published on the Bivalves from the Red Sea. Later work was carried out with Martin Zuschin (Institut fur Palaeontologie, Wien) on descriptions of new taxa and biogeographic lists on bivalves from the Red Sea and adjacent regions.

Bivalves of the Arabian Sea

We are working with others on a book on Seashells of Eastern Arabia. Additional papers were published on various bivalve groups from this area.

Taxonomic Tools

Staff: Graham Oliver, Anna Holmes, James Turner

British Bivalves web-based ID guide

We have just released a new web-based identification guide to British bivalves. This guide fills the gap since the last collective work on British bivalves which was published in the 1960s and includes just 180 species. Our database includes around 360 species from those that can be beach-collected to those found at depths of 5000 metres.

This project was funded by the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the guide aimed at biologists and ecologists identifying species for environmental impact surveys. These surveys are required to be carried out whenever exploration for new gas and oil sites is carried out.

The identification guide has a page per species which can be found by searching for the species by name or by browsing the list of species which is organised by superfamily group. Each species includes numerous high quality colour images pointing out any key diagnostic features and includes a description, habitat and ecological information, distribution maps, references citing that species and plates of species to show juveniles and adults together.

Although the project relies heavily on material in old collections and that derived from the marine benthic surveys carried out by us in recent years, it also requires further collecting to provide missing examples, new material for taxonomic review and to confirm distributions. The latter now especially requires material collected for molecular study. This collecting programme is linked to the "Explorations of Marine Biodiversity" programme.

This identification tool is available online to anyone who would like to use it. This initial product is suitable for those with a basic knowledge of bivalves, but in the near future there will be a highly useful key based on shell shapes which will aid the amateur.

Taxonomy and taxonomic tools for marine Bivalvia of the Indian Ocean

The taxonomy of the marine bivalves of the Indian Ocean remains largely unresolved with numerous new species and revisions requiring study. Taxonomic tools are fragmentary and where available require updating. We have a lengthy history of involvement with major publications on the Red Sea, Eastern Arabian Sea, Seychelles and Rodrigues and would like to reproduce the format of the British Bivalves project to use for the Western Indian Ocean.

Past research on taxonomic tools

Yoldiella and Portlandia guide

A guide was produced to the Yoldiella and Portlandia in the northeast Atlantic. Material from 3 surveys by AFEN (Atlantic Frontier Environmental Newtwork) and additional material from our museum collections and other borrowed specimens was used to create an illustrated identification guide to this difficult group of bivalves. Reprints are available by request to James Turner

Thyasiridae of the North Sea oilfields

A guide was produced to the Thyasiridae of the British Continental Shelf and North Sea Oilfields. Collections from 41 oil/gas fields were examined along with museum and private collections to produce a highly illustrated guide to this problematical group of bivalves.