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NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-AFSC-341

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Guide for identifying select bivalve species common to southeast Alaska


This guide presents a comparison of the major anatomical structures amongst select bivalve species common in Southeast Alaska. The guide was compiled for use in identifying the prey contents found inside sea otter (Enhydra lutris) stomachs (Brown et al., 2017, in review), and is not inclusive of all bivalve species throughout Alaska. The guide was designed in response to a lack of photographical information with which to compare bivalve siphons. Clams comprise up to 75 % of the sea otter diet (Garshelis et al., 1986; Kvitek and Oliver, 1992; Kvitek et al., 1993; Wolt et al., 2012). However, sea otters rarely consume bivalve shells, leaving the soft parts - most notably the siphon and foot - as the most reliable features for identifying bivalve species inside sea otter stomachs. 

Since most guides include little or no information regarding the soft parts of bivalves, the authors set out in search of a way to compare bivalve siphons and feet. As part of that work, this guide was constructed with the intent that it would be useful to others doing similar work. It may also be useful for the identification of walrus (Odobenus rosmarus) and bearded seal (Erignathus barbatus) stomach contents (Nora Foster, University of Alaska Museum, personal communication) or for the identification of bivalve siphons from diving or submersible surveys of seafloor habitats (sensu Stone et al., 2005).

View Online  (.pdf, 21.8 MB).

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