Abundance and ecological significance of the clam Rangia cuneata (Sowerby, 1831) in the upper Barataria Estuary (Louisiana, USA)

Research paper by Wai Hing Wong, Nancy N. Rabalais, R. Eugene Turner

Indexed on: 04 Jun '10Published on: 04 Jun '10Published in: Hydrobiologia


We proposed that Rangia cuneata (Sowerby, 1831) is an important estuarine bivalve with ecological significance in three coastal lakes in Barataria Bay, Gulf of Mexico—Lake Cataouatche, Lake Salvador and Lac des Allemands. Our goals were to determine the abundance and distribution of Rangia in these lakes and to measure clearance times to elucidate its potential impacts on phytoplankton communities. The estimated average densities of R. cuneata in Lake Cataouatche, Lake Salvador, and Lac des Allemands were 63, 157, and 107 individuals m−2, respectively, which is 30% lower than that observed in nearby Lake Pontchartrain. The size of clams in Lake Salvador was between 4 and 50 mm, while individuals in Lake Cataouatche and Lac des Allemands were mostly >20 mm. We postulate that a relatively infrequent large tropical storm transported the larvae from Lake Salvador to the other two lakes 1 year before our sampling to create this size difference. The clams were up to 99.9% of the total benthic biomass in Lake Salvador, 15.9% in Lake Cataouatche, and 40.0% in Lac des Allemands. The R. cuneata biomass values were between 16.2 and 27.6 g m−2 and the clearance times were 1.0–1.5 days. The clearance times are among the highest previously reported for coastal bivalve communities, which were from cooler climates. The results demonstrate that Rangia can be a critical part of the ecological processes in shallow water systems of the Gulf of Mexico.