Skip to Content

Clam Facts

Clam Facts

Interesting Facts About Clams

You might think that most facts about clams are boring, but clams are actually quite remarkable! The name clam can be used in reference to a number of mollusks, mussels, and oysters. For the most part, clams are masses of tissue and are completely invertebrate—meaning they have no bone structure.

Instead of bones, clams of all sorts have some form of shell to protect them from the elements and predators such as birds, fish, and humans. In the science world, clams are known as bivalves—which basically means two-shells.

Physical Characteristics

A family of clam shells on the sand

Although clams are usually thought of as one soft mass—and they are, in a sense—they do actually have body parts. That’s right, clams have a head, foot, and radula! The foot is located at the front where the shells open. The foot can be pushed through the opening of the shells to swim or help burry the clam in the sand.

In addition to a foot, they also have a tongue-like part called a radula. The radula collects bits of food and helps to break them down. Clams also have “systems” just as we humans do. In fact, they have a reproductive system, allowing them to procreate, a digestive system to break down food, nervous system, and a circulatory system which pumps blood through closed vessels like we humans have.

A clam’s shell is one of the best known facts about clams. What some people aren’t aware of is the fact that the clam actually has an inner and an outer shell (going back to the “bivalve” thing). But the interesting part is that the inner shell isn’t really a shell-like material as you would imagine, but more like a really strong muscle-like tissue.

This muscle is attached to both the outer shell and the body of the clam, which is how clam shells are able to remain closed (and often times require a special tool to crack them open).

Impressive Facts About Clams

Closeup shot of clam family

The biggest clam ever recorded was around 750 pounds in weight! It was discovered in Okinawa, Japan in 1956. The oldest living—at the time—clam was a quahog found near Iceland. It was estimated to be about 405 years old and could possibly have been the oldest living marine animal!

A clam’s age can be told by cutting into the shell and counting the “rings” present there. These rings develop over the years and there should in fact be one ring for every year of the clam’s life. Each ring is usually different from the others because of the environmental factors that took place that year, such as temperature of the water, available food, and how oxygenated the water was.

Cooking with Clams

The French used to make a stew-like dish out of clams and salted pork called chaudree. This stew was brought to Canada when the French immigrants took residence there. As you can imagine, the recipe soon traveled south across the Canadian-American border. Coastal areas in New England took a fancy to this dish because they had an abundance of clams.

The recipe changed a little over the years and what was once a hearty French stew turned into the famous New England clam chowder dish! The Italian culture uses many types of clams in a number of traditional seafood and pasta dishes.

American coastal areas also use clams as main ingredients or accent flavors in a wide variety of dishes. Clams are often boiled, steamed, fried, baked, or sautéed, however they can be eaten raw if one has the palette for it!

Related Resources: