What happens when curiosity meets science?
Well, it’s hard to say as it isn’t a one-time phenomenon.
Oceans are hoards of secrets waiting to be discovered. And recently scientists have discovered a clam species that was thought to be extinct for more than 40,000 years.
In 2018, off the coast of California, marine ecologist Jeff Goddard was sauntering along the shoreline, scouting tide pools for the slimy sea slugs.
He accidentally spotted an unusual-looking invertebrate; a pale, translucent bivalve that measured roughly 11 millimeters in length.
As a marine psychologist, being wise enough to not disturb a species in its natural habitat Goddard had clicked some pictures of the clam and had sent them to his colleague – Paul Valentich-Scott, Curator of malacology at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.
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At first, he too had failed to recognize the species which intrigued him.
“New discoveries are part of why we’re in science,” Valentich-Scott said.
The 2 then captured a live specimen (Clam) in 2019 and took it to the museum to identify the species with the fossil record. They were stunned to discover an absolute resemblance to a clam fossil that was 1st identified in the 1930s by paleontologists George Willett.
Researchers stated that “it’s rare to find something first as a fossil and then living.”
This clam species was first named ‘Cymatioa cooki’ by Willet after Edna Cook, an amateur shell collector who 1st identified the fossil as a unique one in the collection of more than 30,000 shells.
“Once I physically saw that that original specimen that Willet has used for his description, I knew right away that this clam was the same species,” Valentich-Scott said in a report.
However, the researchers are baffled at how this species (de-extinct species) evaded detection from humans.
Some marine ecologists claim that C. cooki could be inhabiting a region farther south in Baja, California, perhaps warm water currents could have swept some clam larvae toward Santa Barbara.
The researchers have found a few specimens to study further. The report ‘triumphant reappearance of C. cooki‘ was published in ZooKeys.