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Clam is a generic term for a variety of bivalve mollusks. The term is frequently given primarily to edible infauna that spend the most of their life partially buried in the sand of the seabed or riverbeds. Clams have two equal-sized shells joined by two adductor muscles, as well as a strong digging foot. They may survive in both freshwater and marine habitats; in salt water, they like to burrow into the mud, and the turbidity of the water required varies according on the species and region; North America has the highest diversity of them.
Clams, unlike oysters and mussels, do not dwell linked to a substrate and do not reside near the bottom of the ocean (whereas scallops do). Clams are often consumed marine bivalves in culinary applications, such as clam digging and the accompanying soup, clam chowder. Many edible clams, such as palourde clams, have an oval or triangular shell; however, razor clams have an extended parallel-sided shell, like a traditional straight razor.
Some clams have one-year life cycles, whereas others can live for over 500 years. Filter feeders, all clams have two calcareous shells or valves linked near a hinge by a flexible ligament.
Clams are shellfish that serve as filter feeders and food for a variety of creatures, making them a crucial element of the web of life that keeps the seas running. Existing animals that eat clams include walruses from both the Pacific and Atlantic, all known subspecies of harbour seals from both the Atlantic and Pacific, most species of sea lions, including the California sea lion, bearded seals, and even freshwater species found in Asia and North America. Birds of all kinds will eat clams if they can catch them in the littoral zone: North and South American roseate spoonbills, Eurasian oystercatchers, whooping cranes, and common cranes, the American flamingo of Florida and the Caribbean Sea, and the common sandpiper are just a few of the many birds that eat clams around the world. Clams are a mainstay of the diet of most octopus species, even the giants like the Giant Pacific octopus.
The name “clam” most typically refers to the hard clam Mercenaria mercenaria in culinary use throughout the eastern coast of the United States and broad swaths of the Maritimes of Canada. Other edible species include the soft-shell clam, Mya arenaria, and the ocean quahog, Arctica islandica. The surf clam Spisula solidissima is another economically fished species along the Atlantic Coast of the United States. Scallops and cockles are both eaten throughout the United States, but cockles are more difficult to obtain than in Europe due to their habit of being farther out in the tide than European species on the West Coast, and they are often found in salt marshes and mudflats where mosquitoes abound on the East Coast. In the Eastern United States, edible species include Americardia media, also known as the strawberry cockle, which grows from Cape Hatteras to the Caribbean Sea and throughout Florida; Trachycardium muricatum, which grows to be many times the size of the European cockle; and Dinocardium robustum, which grows to be many times the size of the European cockle. They were formerly fished on a modest scale in the Outer Banks, a group of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina, and used in soups, steamed, or pickled.
The bamboo clam, ensis directus, is treasured by Americans for manufacturing clam strips all over the Eastern U.S. coast, despite the fact that it cannot be gathered mechanically without causing damage to the beaches due to its tendency of burrowing into the sand extremely near to the shore. The bamboo clam is also known for possessing a razor-sharp edge to its shell, which must be handled with extreme caution when collected by hand.