Honors Program

University Honors

Date of Award


Thesis Professor(s)

Joseph R. Bidwell

Thesis Professor Department

Biological Sciences

Thesis Reader(s)

Thomas F. Laughlin, Gregory W. Bishop


The Asian clam, Corbicula fluminea, is an invasive bivalve species that now occurs through most of the lower 48 United States. While a significant degree of salinity tolerance has been observed in C. fluminea, owing to its estuarine lineage, the physiological and behavioral responses to changes in salinity by these organisms are not completely understood. It was hypothesized that Corbicula would initially avoid elevated salinity levels (>1 g/L) behaviorally through valve closure, but would eventually have to open to dispel anaerobic waste products and deal with the salinity. To explore this, Corbicula were collected and put through a series of experiments at salinity exposures of 0, 2.5, and 5.0 g/L, with tissue water content and hemolymph osmolality being measured. After an initial 96-hour exposure, it was observed that the percent tissue water content of clams in 2.5 g/L and 5.0 g/L water dropped 3.29% and 4.18%, respectively, below that of the control groups in 0 g/L. After a 24-hour time-course experiment, this change in tissue water was found to largely occur within the first eight hours of exposure for the 2.5 g/L and 5.0 g/L groups. It was also noted that the hemolymph osmolality of both the 2.5 g/L and 5.0 g/L groups rose to approximately 78 mOsm/kg and 148 mOsm/kg, respectively, matching the osmolality of their exposure water in roughly the same time span and indicating that little behavioral avoidance of the elevated salinity was occurring. The osmolality of the control group did not match the osmolality of the 0 g/L water at 0.5 mOsm/kg, but was held at a constant level around 50 mOsm/kg. In a later experiment measuring the same variables for clams in 10.0 g/L, it was found that the tissue water and osmolality did not begin to change significantly until after 12 hours, indicating behavioral avoidance at this salinity level. A context study was also conducted comparing oxygen consumption and percent tissue water between various salinities in a light and dark exposure to determine if ambient light influenced siphoning of the clams and exposure to the salt. In this experiment, it was observed that clams held in salinities of 5.0 g/L for 24 hours consumed roughly 1.90 mg O2/L/g/h, whereas clams held in the control only consumed roughly 0.73 mg O2/L/g/h. These findings suggest that Corbicula osmoregulate in freshwater but osmoconform at salinities of 2.5 g/L and 5.0 g/L. The data from the context study also suggests that this conformation comes at a significant metabolic cost. Furthermore, and in contrast to the results of some previous studies, a significant level of behavioral avoidance of elevated salinity does not appear to commence until the clams are at a salinity above 5 g/L.


East Tennessee State University

Document Type

Honors Thesis - Withheld

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