Marine Biology

, Volume 153, Issue 4, pp 689–698 | Cite as

Shell gaping behaviour of Pinna nobilis L., 1758: circadian and circalunar rhythms revealed by in situ monitoring

  • José Rafael García-MarchEmail author
  • Miguel Ángel Sanchís Solsona
  • A. M. García-Carrascosa
Research Article


Gaping activity of bivalve molluscs is closely related to physiological process such as breathing, nutrition, responses to environmental stimuli and follows rhythmic cycles in many species. Although the alternation of Sun and Moon is the major entraining agent for the daily living clock-driven rhythms, cyclic extrinsic environmental factors can also modulate gaping activity. Therefore, laboratory experimental conditions can alter the natural behaviour of bivalves, hindering the interpretation of observations. Many features of Pinna nobilis physiology are poorly known, gaping activity not being an exception. To reduce the knowledge gap on this regard, we performed a study on the species gaping activity. The research was designed to be carried out in situ, in order to avoid the interference of laboratory conditions in the observations. To this end, we designed and fabricated a new electronic system composed by a data logger and a sensor formed by multiple reed switches activated by a single magnet. The system is autonomous and can record gaping activity of subtidal bivalves in potentially any type of subtidal environment. Furthermore, it requires little framework for the installation. With this system, we monitored 10 individuals in periods ranging between 3 and 21 days, for up to a total of 98 days. The records have shown that far from being all day open, as previously suggested, P. nobilis follows marked circadian and circalunar rhythms of gaping activity. Individuals usually close the valves during night, sometimes for more than 12 h. The repetition of patterns observed made it possible to distinguish between two main behaviours: (1) night-closing related with sunset and (2) night-opening related with the Moon visible in the sky with the disc illuminated more than 50%. Another two less common trends were also observed: (3) day-closing and (4) night-opening with no visible Moon.


Shell activity Respiration Pinna nobilis Mediterranean 



Wave data was provided by “Puertos del Estado”, the Spanish State Port Authority, and illumination of the Moon was obtained from the Astronomical Applications Department of the United States Naval Observatory. We are grateful to Miguel Ángel García, Celia Agustí and Vicente Tasso for their help during the field surveys. The contribution of M. Goodstadt for the correction of the final version of the manuscript has been very valuable. These experiments complied with the current environmental laws of Spain and European Union.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • José Rafael García-March
    • 1
    Email author
  • Miguel Ángel Sanchís Solsona
    • 1
  • A. M. García-Carrascosa
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Zoology, Marine Biology LaboratoryUniversity of ValenciaBurjassot (Valencia)Spain

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