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Mussels Vs. Clams: Difference Between Bivalve Mollusks Revealed

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Take a dive into the Pacific Ocean and you get to see the wonders of fresh edible scallops, clams, mussels, and oysters.

The difference between clams, mussels, and oysters is quite significant and can be pointed out by looking at their shells, shape, and taste. While all of these are seafood and edible, the taste is quite different.

Mussels, oysters, clams, and scallops are mollusks that belong to the family Mollusca. They are types of bivalve mollusk which means that they have two shells and are connected to each other by a hinge at the back. All these water species are filter feeders, meaning that they filter out small portions of food from the water around them. As all these mollusks are from the same bivalve family, they can be seen in saltwater regions like the shallow and deepwater areas of the Pacific Ocean.

Read on to learn about the difference between clams, mussels, and oysters. You might want to learn more about other fun facts about the common things all around us. So go ahead and look at some other articles like mussel facts and muskrat vs. beaver facts.

How are mussels and clams different?

Mussels, clams, oysters, and scallops definitely look quite similar at a first glance, but even though they have the same shape and are mollusks, there are significant differences between them.

While mussels are found in freshwater and saltwater regions, clams only inhabit freshwater bodies. The shells of the mussels unlike clams are long and oblong. The shells aren't smooth and they are securely attached to the surface by byssal threads. The byssal threads normally keep the mussels attached to the gills of fish so that the mussels can be distributed throughout the water bodies. The oblong-shaped shells are dark blue, brown, or black in color, while the inner part of the shell is silver or gray in color. The shell of a mussel is composed of three layers - the iridescent layer, prismatic layer, and the periostracum. The iridescent layer is made up of calcium carbonate which is secreted by the mantle, the prismatic layer is made up of chalky crystals of calcium carbonate. The periostracum is the outer layer of the shell and is similar to the skin.

Clams, on the other hand, have circular or oval-shaped shells and the shells are equally sized, except for the razor clams. Clams are different from mussels as they have organs. Clams have a heart, partial digestive system, and circulatory system. A clam shell can close as it contracts because of its two adductor muscles. They have organs that are surrounded by watery blood that contains the nutrients that are needed for the survival of the clamshells.

Oyster shells are rougher and are brown, white, or gray in color. Oysters are found attached to bigger oysters containing pearls in Pacific Ocean reefs. Oysters can not only be consumed but also have pearls that are used to make jewelry and other stuff.

Are clams or mussels healthy?

Scallops, clams, mussels, and oysters are perfectly edible and are quite nutritious as seafood.

Scallops are a nice start to the seafood category and are delicious when seared. Scallops tend to have a similar texture to fish when seared properly. Scallops can be found frozen mostly but if found fresh then they go well raw or lightly cooked in citrus juice. Scallops go well with bacon, cured meats, and other meat which has a slightly sweeter taste.

Clams are perfect for the very first step into the mollusk family. Clams are found in freshwater ocean bodies and can be consumed raw or cooked by grilling or frying. Mussels are also great when cooked properly in broth or sauce as they absorb the taste well. A good mussel is one that has its shell tightly closed and is alive. After the beard is removed from the shell, it's ready to be consumed. If the shells are open then they shouldn't be eaten. Overall clams are healthier than mussels but both contain essential amino acids, less saturated fats, and are low in calories. The content of nutrients is different in the bivalve mollusks species but the common contents they are rich in are zinc, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, copper, magnesium, iron, and sodium. Clams have more vitamin C, vitamin B12, calcium, copper, and potassium. Mussels have more vitamin B1, iron, folate, and magnesium. The sodium content in mussels is lower and is good for people who need to watch their salt intake in their food.

Oysters are found in saltwater bodies and are famous for creating pearls. Oysters are not for beginners as they are high up in the seafood category. People who like to eat oysters would say that their briny flavor is exquisite while for rookies the taste might be quite challenging. Oysters can be consumed raw or cooked but they should be eaten as soon as they are opened.

Oysters, mussels, scallops, and clams are quite famous among fresh ocean food lovers for their salty and tangy flavor.

Which is better for eating, mussels or clams?

Both the species are edible and are eaten by humans. Mussels are soft but when cooked properly they have a chewy texture. Seafood that is consumed by humans is eaten either well cooked or raw, and mussels need to be cooked properly as the flavor is quite bland on its own. Clams on the other hand can be eaten raw or cooked, and have a salty flavor. Based on how clams are prepared they have a chewy texture and can also be described as rubber-like.

Mussels can be steamed to make them soft and eaten in different dishes. Clams can be cooked or eaten raw and have several dishes as well, like clam chowder, or clams that are fried and baked.

Can you replace clams with mussels?

Clams and mussels are both bivalves and therefore can be replaced with each other in dishes. The food or dish that has clams, can be exchanged with mussels when cooked right. Both the species are types of shellfish that are mollusks and bivalves that taste almost the same, but clams are saltier than mussels.

Not only mussels but clams can also be replaced with scallops and oysters. While these bivalve mollusks are harvested due to a large number of consumers of seafood all around the world, the fact that they are all edible helps to put them into a whole lot of dishes. When cooked and washed properly after being fished out from the ocean, the clams can be cooked and fried, made into clam chowder, or even eaten raw. In case of needing to be substituted, mussels can be used as well but need to be cooked well to taste like clams which are much saltier than mussels.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for mussels vs. clams: the difference between bivalve mollusks revealed then why not take a look at if chickens can eat chocolate or if dogs can eat black pepper.

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Kidadl Team

The Kidadl Team is made up of people from different walks of life, from different families and backgrounds, each with unique experiences and nuggets of wisdom to share with you. From lino cutting to surfing to children’s mental health, their hobbies and interests range far and wide. They are passionate about turning your everyday moments into memories and bringing you inspiring ideas to have fun with your family.

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