Comprehensive Description

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 Mercenaria mercenaria has a thick shell, roughly triangular in shape overall, light brown to grey in colour with a violet border and often with varying concentric bands on the shell . These concentric bands are conspicuous and are closely spaced around the margins but more widely spaced around the umbo. The inner shell surface is shiny with a purplish-blue tinge around the muscle scars. The sculpture of the shell consists of thin concentric ridges that are sharp and raised in early growth stages but worn away in older shells. It can grow up to 12 cm in length. The beak extends well beyond the the main shell. The pallial line is short and triangular with a finely rippled inner margin. Each valve has three conspicuous teeth. The internal anatomy is distinctive. The exhalent and inhalent siphons are joined with a fringe of tentacles around the inhalent siphon. The siphons are yellowish or brownish orange at the ends and often streaked with dark brown or opaque white. The foot is large and white in colour.Commonly known as the Quahog and used to make clam juice. This is a non-native species unsuccessfully introduced into British waters several times since the middle of the nineteenth century. The first live specimen was found in 1864 in the Humber. Merceneria mercenaria was successfully introduced from the USA into Southampton Water in 1925. Due to the colouration of the shell, the native American Indians utilised the shell as 'wampun' for use as currency, hence its scientific name.


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©  The Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom

Source: Marine Life Information Network

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