The Cave Clam (Congeria kusceri), is the only known underground bivalve mollusc in the world. Living in secluded karst underground cave systems of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, it has survived environmental perturbations that lead to the extinction of all other Congeria species. For these reasons, it has been recognised as an exceptional species and was nominated for the Mollusc of the Year 2021 Award, which is awarded by Senckenberg Research Institute and Museum and the LOEWE Centre for Translational Biodiversity Genomics (TBG) in Frankfurt.
In Croatia, this mollusc is studied by the research group within the Laboratory for Moleculary Genetics of the Ruđer Bošković Institute, headed by Dr Helena Bilandžija, PhD, Principal Investigator of project TTP-2018-07-9675 “Evolution in the Dark”. The project is exploring the adaptations of animals to underground life, such as loss of pigmentation and sight, changes in the life cycle and modes of reproduction and enhanced longevity. Doctoral student employed on the project through the Foundation’s “Young Researchers’ Career Development Project – Training New Doctoral Students” (DOK-2020-01) Magdalena Grgić will write her dissertation specifically on the topic of the Cave clam.
The winners of this competition will be able to sequence the genome of their species free of charge. Having access to the genome of the cave clam would be a significant contribution to further research on this bivalve which would enable Dr Bilandžija’s group to unveil molecular mechanisms of its adaptation to life under ground.
You can cast your vote for Mollusc of the Year here.