DNA study in the Pacific reveals 2000 percent increase in our knowledge of mollusc biodiversity

The 21 mollusc species newly described thanks to the latest DNA-taxonomy methodology. Credit: Adrian Glover, Thomas Dahlgren, Helena Wiklund

Scientists working in the new frontier for deep-sea mining have revealed a remarkable 2000% increase in our knowledge of the biodiversity of seafloor molluscs.


Twenty-one species, where only one was previously known, are reported as a result of the research which applied the latest DNA-taxonomy methodology to specimens collected from the central Pacific Clarion Clipperton Zone (CCZ) in 2013. They are all described in the open access journal ZooKeys.

Among the discoveries is a monoplacophoran mollusc species regarded as a ‘living fossil’, since it is one the ancestors of all molluscs. This is the first DNA to be collected from this species and the first record of it from the CCZ mining exploration zone – a vast 5-million-km² region of the central Pacific that is regulated for seabed mining by the International Seabed Authority.

“Despite over 100 survey expeditions to the region over 40 years of mineral prospecting, there has been almost no taxonomy done on the molluscs from this area,” says lead author Dr Helena Wiklund of the The Natural History Museum in London (NHM).

Dr Wiklund undertook a comprehensive DNA-based study of the molluscs to confirm species identities and make data available for future taxonomic study. This was coupled with the expertise of the NHM’s Dr John Taylor, who led the morphological work.

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This video shows sampling methodologies including box core sampling. Credit: Adrian Glover, Thomas Dahlgren, Helena Wiklund

The molluscs were found in samples taken on and in the mud surrounding the potato-sized polymetallic nodules that are present in high abundance across the CCZ….

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