NEWS

New species of razor clam was right under our noses, says Philip Sargent

12/12/2014 08:50 EST | Updated 02/11/2015 05:59 EST
Scientists have identified a new species of razor clam, based on samples collected more then seven years ago from the ocean just off Long Pond, Conception Bay.

"It was right under our noses," said Philip Sargent, a technician with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in St. John's.

"Who would have thunk in 25 feet of water there was a new species we didn't know."

The new species was identified following a collaborative project between Spanish geneticists Joaquín Vierna, Ana M. González-Tizón, Andrés Martínez-Lage, and Danish marine ecologist Kurt Thomas Jensen.

Its scientific name is Ensisterranovensis, in recognition of the province in which it was found.

It is native to the eastern coast of the United States and Canada, and is found in large numbers in areas of the ocean with sandy bottoms, said Sargent.

Surprised by findings

Sargent was asked to collect some specimens of razor clams in 2007 while he worked for Memorial University's Ocean Science Centre.

He knew right where to look, and the samples were sent to Europe for testing.

In 2012, Sargent was told a paper had been published, confirming that his samples were a new species of razor clam.

He was quite surprised.

"We thought this new species was basically older versions of the common razor clam," Sargent said during an interview with CBC Here and Now on Thursday.

The discovery was big news in the European scientific community a couple of years ago, but never really generated much hoopla on this side of the ocean. 

Meanwhile, Sargent said Ensis terranovensis can be found all along coastal Newfoundland and Labrador.

"I'm seeing more of this new species than the common razor clam," he said.

The clam is so named because it resembles a closed straight razor in shape, and they're quite tasty.

Sargent's own recipe has them steamed and chopped in a basil, garlic and oregano tomato sauce over a bed of pasta.

"They are pretty good," said Sargent.

The new species is a little longer, and its shell is a little thicker with less brown skin covering it.

But to the untrained eye, there's very little to distinguish them from the common razor clam.

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