From pest to protein? 'Naked clams' a potential solution for sustainable nutrition, find researchers

Shipworms, or Teredinids, can burrow into waste wood and convert it to protein. This has traditionally caused them to be seen as a pest.

However, they are in fact abundant in nutrients. Just 10g in dry weight a week of the bivalve would be enough to fulfil one’s weekly intake of vitamin B12. This suitability for human consumption has caused them to be rechristened ‘naked clams’, to make them sound more palatable. However, this isn’t just PR: naked clams have a lot of potential.

While they have already proved to be highly nutritious for consumption, the present study wanted to see if this aspect could be pushed even further.

Using an aquaculture system

The aim of the study was to see whether the nutritional value of naked clams could be improved.

To test this, researchers first created a fully-enclosed aquaculture system (a system for breeding, raising and harvesting seafood, essentially a seafood farm) for naked clams. The fully enclosed nature of the system means that concerns over water safety were less prominent than otherwise.

They then compared the faeces of naked clams after giving them a diet of just wood and after giving them a diet of wood combined with an algae-based microencapsulated feed.

Researchers found that those naked clams fed with microencapsulated feed had a greater protein content than those fed on wood alone. Those clams fed with microencapsulated feed also had a 75.8% greater polyunsaturated fatty acid content, which, according to the UK’s National Health Service, can lower the levels of “bad” cholesterol in the blood. However, the microencapsulated feed had no effect on the levels of B12 found in the naked clams.