Mercenaria mercenaria

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A very typical M. mercenaria shell. Note the very obvious concentric growth lines that are found on the outer shell

Mercenaria mercenaria - Northern quahog

Habitat The northern quahog can be found on the sandy bottom in the coastal waters that can be considered it's range.

Range The northern quahog can be found all along the eastern coast of The United States as well as on the coast of The Gulf of Mexico, going as far west as Texas.

Description The northern quahog is known for it's large, hard shell. The outer shell tends to vary anywhere from light brown to white, while the inner shell is typically white, except at the posterior end, which is a deep purple. The shell has no ribbing, but has very distinct concentric growth lines.

Ecological Notes The northern quahog, like most clams, is a filter feeder, using it's siphons to gather food. It spends most of it's time buried in soft mud or sand, using it's heavy shell to help keep it anchored to the bottom. Roughly 98% of these clams begin life as a male. However, as time passes, many of the males will switch gender, becoming female, which evens out the gender ratio.

Personal Information Quahog shells were abundant along the shoreline of Pea Island. Interestingly enough, most of these shells were found well above the tide line, meaning we either arrived at the shoreline during low tide, or that the shells were launched that distance due to their weight.


Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce

Additional Information

Bricelj, V.M., Malouf, R. E. 1984. Influence of algal and suspended sediment concentrations on the feeding physiology of the hard clam Mercenaria mercenaria. Marine Biology. 84(2), 155-165.

This paper focused on the feeding habits of Mercenaria mercenaria. Specifically it focused on their ability to filter feed as the amount of sediment in the water increased. They found that the clams were able to handle the increasing concentrations of sediment.

Cheng, T.C., Rodrick, G.E., Foley, D.A., Koehler, Sherry, S.A. 1975. Release of lysozyme from hemolymph cells of Mercenaria mercenaria during phagocytosis. Journal of Invertebrate Physiology. 25(2), 261-265.

The authors of this paper focused on the lysosomal enzyme known as lysozyme, which can be found in the hemolymph of Mercenaria mercenaria. These hemolymphs had been exposed to known quantities of Bacillus megaterium. The activity of this enzyme was then studied.

Contributed by Ben Pearce - 2014

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