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How do clams reproduce?


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Answered 2009-11-03 11:27:29

Clams may be male, female or both (hermaphroditic) depending on the species and the particular stage in its life cycle. For example, the hard clam (quahog) begins its life cycle as a male, then later on may become a female. The various kinds of cockles found around the world are all hermaphroditic as adults. There is no easy way to tell a male from a female clam. Fortunately, either sex tastes equally good, which for most people is probably all that matters in this regard. Quahogs, like other clam species, reproduce through a spawning process in which females release large numbers of eggs into the water, while males release sperm. Fertilization takes place in the open water. Females can release from 1 million to as many as 24 million eggs at one time, and spawning may continue for several months, depending on the water temperature and the availability of food. A single female may release up to 60 million eggs in a season, of which only a small number will become fertilized and grow to become adult clams. Once fertilization takes place, the young clam goes through a larval stage where it is carried by waves and currents. Eventually it develops a shell and sinks to the bottom. Using its muscular foot, it can then move about the bottom to some degree. At this point in the process, you may observe a white, frost like coating of young clams along tidal flats in areas where spawning took place. A single handful of this white mixture would contain thousands of tiny clams. Most would not survive, but some always did, as evidenced by the fresh supply of clams we find each year.

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