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Difference Between Mussels and Clams

Mussels vs Clams

When it comes to shellfish, many people wonder as to what the difference is between a mussel and a clam. Although they come from a similar family ,which is the bivalve family, they are both considered as different species. Mussels are used for members of bivalvia mollusca that come from saltwater and freshwater. Such group has a shell that has an outline that is elongated and asymmetrical which are less oval or circular in shape. The word “mussel” means it is an edible bivalve that comes from the marine family Mytilidae. Oftentimes they live in shores by the intertidal zone. They are strongly attached with the help of their byssal threads so that they can form a firm substrate. Also, there are a few species that have inhabited the hydrothermal vents that are connected with deep ocean ridges. Most of the marine mussels, their shell is longer, wedge-shaped ,or asymmetrical. The external color would be dark blue, brown and black, but the insides would be silver or grayish that look nacreous.

As for clams, they are the freshwater bivalves. Generally speaking ,they are the bivalve mollusks. But if you consider it in a much more limited sense, clams would be the bivalves that hide away in sediments. They aren’t like mussels that usually attach themselves to the substrate. What is more is that clams are one or more species that are commonly consumed. That’s why many indulge in the dish called clam chowder. There are a lot of edible bivalves that are oval in shape. However, the razor clams are edible and have an elongated shape with a parallel-sided shell. The shape looks like an old-fashioned straight razor. However, it is different in the United Kingdom. They coin it as the various species of marine bivalve mollusk.

The anatomy of both bivalves is completely different. The external shell has two hinged valves. The valves are connected on the outside by a ligament. They close with the help of strong internal muscles. You would be surprised to know that mussel shells actually carry a lot of functions. Some functions would be to give support for tissues, protection from predators, and desiccation. The shell is composed of three layers, namely, the iridescent layer, prismatic layer and the periostracum. In pearly mussels, they have the iridescent layer which is made up of calcium carbonate secreted consistently by the mantle. The prismatic layer, which is the middle layer, is composed of white, chalky crystals of calcium carbonate covered in a protein matrix. The periostracum would have to be the outer pigment layer that is similar to a skin. It has conchin that contains protein which serves as the protection from abrasions and dissolutions by acids.

As for clams, they have a shell that contains two equal halves or valves. These clams are joined together by a hinge join and a ligament as well. It could either be external or internal that is similar to that of a Venus flytrap. Clams have two adductor muscles that allow the shell to close as it contracts. Clams have no heads; however, they have kidneys, a heart, a mouth, and an anus. What is more is that clams have open circulatory systems so they have organs that are surrounded by watery blood. The watery blood contains the nutrients and oxygen needed by the clams. Clams eat plankton by means of filter feeding. Filter feeding happens by drawing in water containing food with the means of a siphon system. As the food is filtered out of the water with the use of gills, it will then be swept toward the mouth on the layer of mucus. Once that is done, water will be expelled by the animal from another siphon system.


1. Mussels come from a bivalve family that attach to a substrate. They attach with
the help of byssal threads.
2. Clams are bivalve mollusks that burrow themselves into a sediment.
3. The anatomy of a mussel is focused on the shells of a mussel that have three
different layers, namely, the iridescent layer, prismatic layer, and periostracum.
4. Clams’ anatomy is more complex as it includes a kidney, heart, mouth ,and

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