Laternula elliptica is a key bivalve species and widely distributed around the Antarctic continent. This bivalve has been the study subject in several studies centered on ecological, physiological, biochemical, and behavioral patterns. However, little is known about the chemistry and the biomechanical properties of the shells of this mollusk. Here, we present the first report of the intra-population variability in the organic composition and mechanical properties of L. elliptica shells. Further, we analyze different morphological traits and their association with the metabolism of a population of L. elliptica from King George Island, Western Antarctic Peninsula. The summer metabolic rates and the hepatosomatic index values indicate good health conditions of this clam’s population. Shell periostracum chemistry is quite similar to bivalves from temperate regions, but the relative amount of protein increased ca. five-fold in shells of L. elliptica. The microhardness is approximately 32% lower than in bivalves from temperate regions. Our characterization of the L. elliptica shells suggests that periostracum chemistry could be specially fitted to avoid shell carbon exposure to dissolution (e.g., in corrosive acidified seawater). In contrast, the reduction in shell hardness may result from prioritizing behavioral (burial) and shell repairing strategies to confront biological (predators) and physical disturbances (e.g., ice scouring). Similar studies in other Antarctic mollusks will help understand the role of shell structure and function in confronting projected climate changes in the Antarctic ocean.
- Intrapopulation variability