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The science of classifying organisms is called Taxonomy


In the study of living things, scientists classify each organism into categories. 

The examples listed below are the Hard Clam or Northern Quahog and the Blue Crab


Northern Quahog (Hard Clam)

Blue Crab















Jointed leg invertebrates








Bivalve (2 valves=1shell)


Crabs Shrimp, Lobsters



Thick shelled


Ten legged



Saltwater clams


Swimming crabs



Edible saltwater clams


Greek for "Beautiful Swimmer"



Northern quahog


Latin for "Savory"


        A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

adductor (muscle) -  a round, meaty muscle that the bivalve uses to open and close its shell


algivorous - feeding on algae as a primary food source


anterior - the side of a clam - foot end (opposite of posterior)   <see image>


apron - a small and short abdomen, which is bent up beneath a crab's larger thorax <see image>


arthropod - an invertebrate animal having an exoskeleton (external skeleton), a segmented body, and jointed appendages


beak - the tip of each valve, the oldest part of the shell, generally pointed and near the hinge.
The general region of the beak is often called the umbone or umbo. <see image>


bivalve - a freshwater or saltwater mollusk with a shell consisting of two rounded plates called valves joined at one edge by a flexible ligament called the hinge


bolus - a mass of food preparation ready to be passed through the gastrointestinal tract

  buccal - (Latin) of or relating to the cheeks or mouth cavity
  buccal cavity - in gastropods, the area inside the mouth that houses the radula

buckram crabs are at a stage following papershell when the shell is starting to harden but is still pliable


byssal threads - the threads some bivalves such as mussels and scallops secrete with their foot to attach the shell to a rock or other substrate  <see image>


byssus - a bundle of strong, hair-like (byssal) threads originating from posterior end of (often reduced) foot. Produced by byssal gland and extended from shell to attach to hard substrates


calcareous - adj. - composed of, containing, or characteristic of calcium carbonate, calcium, or limestone; chalky   - clam shells are made primarily of calcium carbonate

  calcareous worms - (tube worms). a marine worm that encases itself in a tube made of calcium carbonate and attaches to stones and other hard objects (buoys, shells, outboard boat engines, etc.). They eat plankton, which they filter through a crown of feathery tentacles.

carapace - a hard, bony outer covering, such as the portion of the exoskeleton covering the head and thorax of a crustacean


cardinal tooth - on a bivalve shell, a (usually relatively short) tooth below the beak of the umbo, and usually aligned with the beak <see image>.  Contrasted with lateral tooth

  carnivore (carnivorous) - an animal that eats other animals or animal matter

chelea - (cheliped) a large pincer-like claw of such arthropods as the crab and scorpion


chitin - a nitrogen-containing polysaccharide, related chemically to cellulose, that forms a semitransparent horny substance and is a principal constituent of the exoskeleton, or outer covering, of crustaceans and insects


chitinous - a tough, protective, semi-transparent substance forming the principal component of arthropod exoskeletons. The teeth of a snail's radula is comprised of the same material


cilia - plural for cilium - microscopic, hair-like projection on the surfaces of some cells and of certain organisms.


columella - the hidden central axis of a whelk or snail shell that a series of whorls are wound around.


crustacean - one of  a large group of arthropods which includes animals such as crabs, lobsters, crayfish, shrimp, krill and barnacles.

  cteidium - (c is silent) - a hinge having marginal projections that resemble the teeth of a comb (characteristic of  Ark clams)

ctenodont  hinge - (c is silent) - a hinge having marginal projections that resemble the teeth of a comb (characteristic of  Ark clams)

  cuticular (adjective) -(cuticle) - the noncellular, hardened protective covering of many invertebrates.

decapods - having ten (deca) feet (pods) - characteristic of crabs

  denticles - the arrangement of teeth on the radula of a snail

detritus - an accumulation of disintegrated organic material or debris


dorsal - the side of a clam - location of the umbo, beak and hinge (opposite of ventral) <see image>


equivalved - both valves being equal in size and shape.


estuary - a zone along a coastline where freshwater systems and rivers meet and mix with salt water


exoskeleton - an external skeleton that supports and protects an animal's body


gastropod - (meaning stomach-foot) a mollusk that typically has a large foot for crawling and a single coiled shell that covers the soft body. Snails and whelks are gastropods.

  genus - a rank in the classification of organisms, below family and above species

gill - a respiratory organ in aquatic organisms whose function is to extract dissolved oxygen from water and excrete carbon dioxide. The gills of some species such as hermit crabs have adapted to allow respiration on land provided they are kept moist.


hemoglobin - a protein that is carried by red cells. It picks up oxygen in the lungs (or gills in the case of the Blood Ark) and delivers it to the peripheral tissues to maintain the viability of cells


herbivore - (Latin: herba, vegetation ; vorare to devour) a species that eat plants as their primary food source  - herbivorous


hinge - the shell of a bivalve is composed of two parts, two valves which are joined together by a ligament, usually with a set of interlocking "teeth" collectively known as the hinge.


inequivalved - two valves of unequal size and shape


invertebrate - an animal without a backbone


labial palps - a pair of fleshy appendages on either side of the mouth of certain bivalve mollusks


larva (plural larvae) - a distinct juvenile form many animals undergo before metamorphosis into adults


lateral tooth - on bivalve shells, a usually relatively long tooth extending more or less parallel to the dorsal shell margin; separated from cardinal teeth by a space.  Called anterior lateral teeth if anterior to the beak of the umbo; posterior lateral teeth if posterior to the beak   <see image>


lingual ribbon - another name for radula


ligament - an elastic, multilayered structure joining two valves of shell dorsally, typically posterior to beak. <see image>

M mantle - the fleshy or membranous outgrowth of the body wall which secretes the shell

metamorphosis (metamorph) - when the larval stage is terminated by metamorphosis and the transition to the early juvenile stage, which resembles a miniature of the adult form

  molt - the fleshy or membranous outgrowth of the body wall which secretes the shell

nacre - the shiny, pearly lining on the inside of some bivalve shells. Sometimes called "mother of pearl


nocturnal - an animal behavior characterized by activity during the night and sleeping during the day.


nudibranch - shell-less colorful little mollusks. They come in lots of different shapes and sizes live in the low tide and eat sponges

O odontophore - a structure in the mouth of most mollusks which supports the radula. It is drawn backward and forward in the process of breaking up food

omnivore - (Latin: omni all, everything; vorare to devour) a species that eat both plants and animals as their primary food source - omnivorous


operculum - a disc of calcium phosphate and mucilage secreted by snails over the aperture of their shells

  ostracum - the calcareous (calcium carbonate) part of the shell beneath the periostracum

palp - an appendage found near the mouth in invertebrates (also see labial palps)

  papershell crab - a crab that has recently molted and who's shell has stiffened but is not yet hard
  periostracum - a thin organic coating or "skin" which is the outermost layer of the shell of many shelled animals    <click here for more information>

photosynthesis - the process through which plants and algae generate their food. In this process carbon dioxide is converted into organic compounds, more specifically sugars, through the energy coming from sunlight


phytoplankton - microscopic organisms that live in watery environments. They live near the surface where there is sufficient light for photosynthesis . An example would be green algae.  "Phyto" is the Greek word for "plant"


pincers - claw -a grasping structure on the limb of a crustacean or other arthropods


plankton - microscopic organisms that live in watery environments, both salty and fresh. "Plankton" is  Greek for "made to wander or drift"

  planktonic - of or relating to plankton.  Free floating.

pleopod - one of the paired abdominal appendages of certain aquatic crustaceans that function primarily for carrying the eggs in females and are usually adapted for swimming (see swimmerets)


posterior - the side of a clam - siphon end (opposite of anterior) <see image>


proboscis - an elongated appendage from the head of an animal.  The most common usage is to refer to the tubular feeding and sucking organ of certain invertebrates.  In simpler terms, a proboscis is the straw-like mouth.


protobranch - “first gills.” - a subclass of bivalves (considered primitive) with lungs that are used only for oxygen exchange and not for feeding. 


pseudofeces -  feces-like deposits released by bivalves.  As a  bivalve filter feeds, rejected materials are gathered by cilia and mucus on the gills and swept out as pseudofeces, while food particles are transported to the mouth.  Feces are waste from digested food.


radula - a flexible tongue-like organ in certain mollusks, having rows of horny teeth on the surface <click here to learn more>
  radulae - the plural form of radula
  rostrum - Latin for "beak"- in crustaceans, the forward extension (or horn) of the carapace in front of the eyes. 
S salinity - the concentration of dissolved salts in water, usually expressed in "parts per thousand" (ppt)

SAV - Submerged  Aquatic Vegetation - vegetation that lives at or below the water surface.  An important habitat for young fish and other aquatic organisms

  seafood -  any sea animal or plant that is served as food and eaten by humans. Seafoods include seawater animals, such as fish and shellfish (including mollusks and crustaceans).

seed - refers to clams and oysters that are too small to harvest, but it generally refers to juvenile clams and oysters that have recently set.


siphon - the part of a clam's (or mussel's) anatomy that draws in water (incurrent siphon) to get food and oxygen and expels waste (excurrent siphon)


sp. - The abbreviation "sp." is used when an actual specific species name cannot or need not be specified. The abbreviation "spp." (plural) indicates "several species"


spat - refers to a recently metamorphosed oyster. The term may be applied to any small oyster.


subtidal zone - the marine zone below the intertidal zone that remains submerged at low tide; generally only refers to near-shore or coastal areas.


swash zone - an area of a beach where water washes up on shore after an incoming wave has broken. This action causes sand and other light particles to be transported up the beach


swimmerets - one of the paired abdominal appendages of certain aquatic crustaceans, such as shrimp and lobsters that function primarily for carrying the eggs in females and are usually adapted for swimming  (also called pleopod)


taxodont hinge - teeth and sockets are small and numerous. They are arranged in a row on each side of the shell near the beak, on both valves.  <see example>


terrestrial - living or growing on land; not aquatic.

  trophic level - the position an organism occupies in a food chain. (e.g. 1-plants 2-herbivores 3-carnivors)
U umbilicus - the hollow cone-shaped space within the whorls of a coiled mollusk shell

umbo - the oldest section of the clam shell with subsequent shell growth radiating out from it.  It is commonly known as the "beak"  <see image>

  univalve - a freshwater or saltwater mollusk with a single shell, usually spiral and can hold the whole animal inside

valve - one of the two calcareous shell elements secreted by the mantle covering left and right sides of the soft body. The two valves are joined dorsally by a hinge and ligament


 velinger - the term veliger comes from the word velum. A velum is a ciliated lobe that helps certain larvae swim, feed and breathe


ventral - the side of a clam where shell growth continues (opposite of dorsal) <see image>


visceral mass - In a mollusk, the largest part of the soft body which includes the digestive and reproductive systems and muscular foot


Wampum - small cylindrical beads made from polished shells formerly used by certain Native American peoples as currency and jewelry or for ceremonial exchanges between groups

            <learn more>


water column - The water located vertically over a specific point or station


whorl -  a cluster of cells or tissue that surround another, that starts at the same plain of axis or starts at one point and wraps around that point in an expanding circular pattern  <see example>