Environmental Protection Agency Narragansett Bay Commission University of Rhode Island Office of Marine Programs

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Feature Creatures

"There's a Lot to Love"
(The Quahog)

I'd like to introduce myself. My scientific name is Mercenaria mercenaria. However, people call me quahog. The name came from the Narragansett Indians who named me poqahoch-hence, the nickname quahog. Depending on my size at the time, I am known by a few other names such as cherrystone and chowder clam. Cherrystones are about two-and-one-half or three-and-one-half inches. Any bigger than that, and I am referred to as a chowder clam.

In most stages of my life, my shell is thick and heart shaped with growth lines on my outer shells. I usually grow to a width of about four inches, and I can live for more than 30 years and have been known to reach even fifty years old! I am a bivalve which means I have two openings-one to take in food like phytoplankton, plants, and silt, and the other to expel what I don't want to keep. I am found in the Bay in more saline areas (that means saltier). My cousin, the ocean quahog, is name Artica islandica and is found in deeper waters.

I have purple hue in my inside shell. This beauty mark was so extraordinary that it was used to make something special called wampum. Wampum was first used by Native Americans and it was passed down through generations. It later became Native American currency used to buy and trade goods.

My meat is sweet, and people enjoy indulging in such delicacies as chowder, stuffies (that's mixed with stuffing), and clam cakes. I've even heard of someone mixing me into chili. Wow!

The most significant growth of my species occurs during spring and fall when abundant food and water temperatures coincide. I can release as many as sixty million eggs during one season. Now that's a lot of clams.

©2001 Ginny Kitts



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