Tiny silica spheres put the disco in disco clams

Light scattering off of silica spheres generates the electric flashes seen on the lips of the disco clam Ctenoides ales.


Disco clams get their name from the light show shimmering from their lips. The dazzling display is not given off by the mollusk itself. Instead, the electric effect is the result of light reflecting off of tiny silica spheres underneath the clams’ lips, researchers report June 25 in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface. The spheres are about the right size to scatter visible light, especially bluer wavelengths, and could be a signal for younger clams or other nearby species, the team writes.

For more on the electric light show, read SN‘s It’s Alive on disco clams.

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

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