Hard clam shells are often found washed up on lower Bay beaches. (dsbrennan/Flickr)
The hard clam is a bivalve with thick, ridged, rounded shells. It lives in the salty waters of the lower Chesapeake Bay.
Thick, rounded shells that vary in color from brownish to gray or whitish
Concentric ridges on the shells
Shells are joined at the hinge by a thick, brown ligament
Interior is usually white with dark purple patches
Hatchet-shaped foot and two short siphons periodically extend from inside the clam
Can grow to 4 inches or longer
Uses its foot to bury itself just below the surface of the sand or mud
Found from the shoreline to a depth of about 60 feet
Lives in the salty waters of the lower Chesapeake Bay
Mostly found in Virginia waters. In the Maryland portion of the Bay, hard clams are restricted to Tangier and Pocomoke sounds.
While buried in the sand, the clam’s two siphons stick up above the surface. The clam draws in water through one siphon, then filters out plankton from the water. Unused water and particles are ejected through the other siphon.
Adult clams have many natural predators, including gulls, tautogs, waterfowl, cownose rays, blue crabs and oyster drills
Humans harvest hard clams for recreational and commercial purposes
Reproduction and Life Cycle:
Spawns between May-October, once clams produce ripe gametes and water temperatures rise above 68-73 degrees
Females can release 16-24 million eggs per spawn. Eggs are fertilized in the water column.
Free-swimming larvae develop over 1-2 weeks. During this time they grow a foot, which is used to crawl over and “explore” a surface before settling.
When larvae find a suitable place to settle, they anchor themselves using thin threads secreted from a gland on the foot
Larvae slowly metamorphose into juveniles, developing gills, siphons and digestive viscera
May live as long as 40 years
Also known as quahogs, little necks, cherrystones and chowder clams. The various commercial names are based on clam size.