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MEET THE CLAM

There are about 20,000 species of clams over the earth; all of them edible!  Of those, only about 50 tasty varieties are large enough to be harvested commercially.  Our scrumptious Cedar Key “sweets” are hard clams, a.k.a. northern quahogs.  The Latin name, Mercenaria mercenaria, comes from the term mercenarius, meaning wages or reward.  American Indians frequently used the clams as wampum beads.


                Quahogs are classified in the phylum Mollusea, class Bivalvia.   It is a mollusk (from the Latin term “mollis” meaning soft) because it has a soft body protected by a shell which is secreted by its body covering or mantle.  Like other mollusks, clams propel themselves around by the use of a muscular foot.  The class of bivalves includes other tasty edibles such as oysters and scallops.  They are classified as bivalves because their shells are in two parts or valves.  This shell is joined by muscles which are strong enough to hold them tightly shut. 


Littleneck

2 -2.5 inches

Cherrystones

2.5-3 inches

Chowder

More than 3 inches

The size of the clam determines the common name. 

  • FEEDING:  Clams are herbivores and take water in through an inhalant siphon (a tube shaped extension of their mantles) and pass it over their gills.   An exhalant siphon expels water and waste.   They dine on phytoplankton, zooplankton and detritus.

  • LOCOMOTION:   Using the tip of its single foot as an anchor, the clam pulls itself forward.  The foot is then deflated and the whole operation is repeated.  No Olympic medals for these little travelers!

  • PREDATORS:  crabs, snails, rays, fish and humans!

Clam farming involves a lot of hard work! 

There are basically four stages: hatchery, nursery, growout and harvest.