Microplastic removal by Red Sea giant clam (Tridacna maxima)

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53 Scopus citations


This study assesses for the first time the ingestion of microplastics by giant clams and evaluates their importance as a sink for this pollutant. A total of 24 individuals of two size classes were collected from the Red Sea and then exposed for 12 days to 4 concentrations of polyethylene microbeads ranging from 53 to 500 μm. Experiments revealed that clams actively take up microplastic from the water column and the average of beads retained inside the animal was ∼7.55 ± 1.89 beads individual −1 day −1 (5.76 ± 1.16 MPs/g dw). However, the digestive tract itself cannot be considered the only sink of microbeads in Tridacnids. Indeed, shells play a key role as well. The abundance of microplastic adhering to the shells, which was estimated directly, was positively correlated to the concentration of beads found in the surrounding seawater. Therefore, clams’ shells contribute to the removal of 66.03 ± 2.50% of the microplastic present in the water column. Furthermore, stress responses to the exposure to polyethylene were investigated. Gross Primary Production:Respiration (GPP:R) ratio decreased throughout of the experiment, but no significant difference was found between treatments and controls. Giant clams remove almost 70% of plastic from the water column mainly through a passive removal process of plastic adhesion to the shell.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1257-1266
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
StatePublished - May 29 2019

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: This work was supported and funded by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology through the baseline funding of CMD. We thank Coastal and Marine Resources Core Lab staff for assistance during operations at the aquaria facilities and Red Sea Research Center colleagues for assistance during lab work.


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