Sclerochronological records of temperature and growth from shells of Mercenaria mercenaria from Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island

D. S. Jones, M. A. Arthur, D. J. Allard

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Annual internal growth increments in shells of hard clams (Mercenaria mercenaria) provide an accurate record of both growth history and some types of environmental change. These increments were used to determine age and growth rate of hard clams collected in 1984-1985 from ten sites in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, USA, and to assess geographic variation in growth within the bay. The regional comparisons were facilitated by modeling the clam growth using the von Bertalanffy equation and the ω parameter of Gallucci and Quinn. The optimum region for hard clam growth was near the head of the bay, with areas further north (Providence River) and south (lower bay) not as productive. The relationship between size and age was similar to that reported for hard clams from northern New Jersey. Using dendrochronological techniques, variations in growth were analyzed on a temporal (year-to-year) basis. The comparative longevity of the hard clams (individuals with 40 annual bands were encountered) demonstrated that sclerochronologies of several decades were possible. A 26 yr growth record based upon 100 individuals was established, covering the years 1959-1984. Significant temporal variations occurred in bivalve growth, and a broad trend of increasing growth indices over the last two decades of the record was noted. The yearly standardized growth index values were highly and positively correlated with mean annual water temperatures in Narragansett Bay for the same time interval. The incremental shell records of these bivalves provide a quantitative indication of marine climatic (temperature) variability and growth which can be used in hindcasting the effects of natural or anthropogenic environmental perturbations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)225-234
Number of pages10
JournalMarine Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 1989

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology


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