||Up to 4 inches.
||Hard shell clams or "quahogs" are native to the coastal waters from the Gulf
of St. Lawrence to the Gulf of Mexico. They prefer salinity ranging from 15 ppt to 32 ppt (sea water). Quahogs are commonly found in the
sand and mud flats of subtidal and lower intertidal estuarine and marine environments.
||Quahogs reproduce by spawning, which is typically triggered when water temperatures
reach approximately 60° F (16° C).
Once the eggs are fertilized, free swimming larvae develop within a few hours.
Despite their swimming abilities, they are still susceptible to currents, winds and wave
action that can disperse them great distances from the site of fertilization. The larval
period generally takes one to three weeks and is greatly influenced by water temperature.
Larvae metamorph into the juvenile stage and resemble small adults. Juveniles are capable
of crawling on the bottom sediments. Once the clam finds a suitable substrate (good food
resources, low predation and low wave action), they dig into the sediments with their
muscular foot. While still small, they can re-emerge and search for more suitable
substrates. However, when soft shell clams become larger, the remainder of their life is
spent sessile beneath the sediments. Adults do not bury deeply into
||Like all bivalves, quahogs have two tubes, called siphons, that work
together to strain out food particles from the water column. They filter the water for phytoplankton by pumping water in through one siphon, passing
it over the gills where food particles collect and pumping it out with the other siphon.
||Quahogs are the preferred food for several predators including: blue crabs (Callinectes
sapidus), starfish, moon snails (Family: Naticidae) and horseshoe crabs (Limulus
||Quahogs are the most common clam in the Chesapeake Bay and are easily identifiable by
two thick almost heart shaped hinged shells, protruding burrowing foot and the purple or
dark blue border found on the inside of the shell. The hinge bears three white cardinal teeth that hold the two halves in alignment. Their
siphons can be seen reaching just above the surface of the sediments for feeding and
delivering wastes away from the clam. Quahogs can live up to 20 years and spend most of
their lives buried in the sediments.
||Quahog (pronounced kO-"hog) comes from the Algonqin Native American
language. The name Mercenaria comes from the historic use of the shell for making
Native American money, or wampum. Beads that were made from the purple part of the shell
were the most valuable form of wampum. "Treading" for quahogs is a favorite
pastime for visitors to the lower Chesapeake Bay. People are often confused by the
different colloquial names given to hard clams. Quahogs, littlenecks,
cherrystones, chowder clams and hard clams all refer to the same species. Three names are
often assigned to the size of the clam for culinary and commercial purposes.
"Littlenecks" (1.5 inches) and "cherrystones" (2 inches) are the
preferred size for cocktail clams served raw on the half shell. "Chowder" (>3
inches) are the preferred size for clam chowder.