Tridacna crocea Lamarck 1819 possesses a diurnal rhythm of activity. During the daylight hours the hypertrophied siphonal tissues, containing zooxanthellae, are expanded and phasic adductions occur that pump fresh sea water into and filtered water and pseudofaeces out of the mantle cavity. During the night the shell valves become more apposed, the mantle folds are withdrawn and few phasic adductions occur. Such a pattern of activity is similar to that described for other sublittoral bivalves.
With this cycle of activity and inactivity is correlated the process of extra-cellular digestion of filtered food in the stomach. This is accomplished by the alternate, but incomplete, dissolution and subsequent reformation of the crystalline style. The style partially dissolves at night and reforms during the day. The digestive diverticula undergo a sequence of cytological changes related to the intra-cellular digestion of filtered food, again related to the cycle of night and day and thus to feeding.
During the night there is a transport and intra-cellular digestion of zooxanthellae by amoebocytes from the mantle to the haemocoel surrounding the visceral mass. During the day digested zooxanthellae are transported to the digestive diverticula where they are discharged (together with the waste products of the intra-cellular digestion of filtered food) into the tubule lumina and thus back into the stomach to be eventually voided via the anus.
Recognizable zooxanthellae are also transported to the kidney, where they are taken up by the cells of the distal limb to form cellular globular concretions; these too are probably also eventually voided.
The discharge of digested zooxanthellae via the digestive diverticula has resulted in modifications to the processes of tubule breakdown and reformation involving the digestive cells only. These unique modifications are described and compared with the structural changes seen in the digestive diverticula of other bivalves.
It is concluded that the unusual functioning of the digestive diverticula is a direct consequence of the utilization by Tridacna of a secondary source of food without the concomitant evolution of special organs of digestion, as for example there has been in the Teredinidae feeding on filtered food and wood. Specific comparisons are made between the Tridacnidae and the Teredinidae and suggestions are made as to how zooxanthellae came to be used as food in these unusual bivalves.