The giant clam Tridacna crocea, native to Indo-Pacific coral reefs, is noted for its unique ability to bore fully into coral rock and is a major agent of reef bioerosion. However, T. crocea's mechanism of boring has remained a mystery despite decades of research. By exploiting a new, two-dimensional pH-sensing technology and manipulating clams to press their presumptive boring tissue (the pedal mantle) against pH-sensing foils, we show that this tissue lowers the pH of surfaces it contacts by greater than or equal to 2 pH units below seawater pH day and night. Acid secretion is likely mediated by vacuolar-type H+-ATPase, which we demonstrate (by immunofluorescence) is abundant in the pedal mantle outer epithelium. Our discovery of acid secretion solves this decades-old mystery and reveals that, during bioerosion, T. crocea can liberate reef constituents directly to the soluble phase, rather than producing sediment alone as earlier assumed.