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Shell Families
Myacidae Family

Shell Families

  1. Large Decorative Shells
  2. Condiae Family
  3. Cowrie Family
  4. Murex Family
  5. Spondylus Family
  6. Turbinidae Family
  7. Volutidae Family
  8. Argonautidae Family
  9. Nautilidae Family
  10. Chamidae Family
  11. Dried Sea Life Family
  12. Strombidae Family
  13. Trochidae Family
  14. Myacidae Family
  15. Haliotidae Family
  16. Tunnidae Family
  17. Specimen Family
  18. Olividae Family
  19. Cassidae Family
  20. Pleurotomariidae Family
  21. Dentaliidae Family
  22. Angariinae Family
  23. Xenophoridae Family
  24. Neritidae Family
Myacidae Family

 Myacidae Family
Bivalve Family
Clam Family

Grouping or classifying the clam family is not easy as there are 10,000 different types world wide and many yet to be discovered. You will find clams in salt water, lakes, streams, and brackish water. They may look different but they are all basically the same. They have a variety of shapes including round, oval, zigzag, and even banana shaped. Their exteriors are rough, smooth, thorny, and with age ridges that tell tales. Some use a ball and socket system to hinge the two shells together while others use teeth. They differ in their mobility. Some are immobile. They attach themselves to rocks or whatever is available waiting for their food supply to come floating in the water to them. Then there are those that are free standing and content to bury themselves in the sandy or muddy bottoms and extend their long snorkels above the strata so they can capture food floating by. This is where the term Long Necks came from. Others move by opening and closing their shells which swishes the water in and out and helps to propel them along in a hopping fashion. I call these Hatteras Hoppers.

Regardless of what they look like, how they open and close, or move around they are all clams. My definition of a clam is anything you find in the water that has two shells hinged together with meat inside. When I walk the Hatteras beach and explore the edge of the Palmico Sound I see the remains of clams. We may call them oysters, pectins, flats, mussels or scallops but they are still clams. When I dig out behind the Old Gray House, I dig the remains of clam, oyster and scallop shells that have been buried for a century after the tasty meat inside was consumed. As I mentioned in the Whelk Shell Story Click Here often the family would gather around a tub of fresh oysters for an evening meal. Grandmother Gray would prepare a big platter of hot biscuits and pot of yaupon tea and coffee. With their favorite oyster knife, each member of the family would pry open an oyster and free it with their knife so they could eat it from the shell. The knife served as a fork to help scoop the oyster from the shell with the juice. Each one had their own secret and favorite knife, for prying open oysters or clams. Opening an oyster was considered an art. There was a time the members of the family earned extra money by shucking oysters for sale. There was a certain amount of prestige that went with being a fast oyster shucker. Before modern day technology came, talented chicken pluckers and oyster shuckers were in great demand. The family’s raw oyster-eating ritual usually followed the same routine. An oyster accompanied with a bite of biscuit and sip of tea or coffee, with conversation and laughter in between. Nobody was in a rush to eat and run. There was always time to share the news of the day or a good story. It was a jovial time full of laughter and family warmth. The empty shells were tossed in a bucket and taken out to be buried in the back yard. The practice was to dig a hole and dump the shells in the hole and put a little dirt over the top to keep the flies from swarming. When one hole was full they dug another for the next feast. There has been many a mess of crabs and clam shells buried all over the Island throughout the years.

Years ago my family had an area at the upper landing, located where you make the turn to come into Buxton, they designated as their oyster bed. No one bothered the other persons’ oyster bed. To do so was considered the crime of crimes. Many were the times we also would walk the sound floor using our toes or a clam rake to uncover the clams that were there.

As you walk our beaches you will see many different shells that are members of the clam family. The majority you find are only one side of the shell. It is not often you find a shell that has the top and bottom hooked together. When you find a clam look closely at the ridges, for these ridges are growth rings like you find on a tree stump. The animal inside the shell is constantly secreting calcium carbonate from its mantel that produces the shell. In some species the layers of calcium carbonate build up to produce very large and heavy shells like the shell of the tropical clam know as the giant clam (Tridacnagigas, Linn 1758) that weighs 500 pounds and is four feet wide. This is a never ending process during the animal’s lifetime. An ocean 3.4 inch quahog clam was found off the coast of Iceland that was dated to be 405 years by counting the number of annual growth rings under a microscope. They named it the Ming Clam after the Ming Dynasty that ruled China from 1368-1644.

Myacidae Family

Quahogs Found on Hatteras Beach

When You Find a Quahog Look Closely at the Shell and Determine its Age by Counting the Annual Growth Rings. Also notice the width and Thickness of the Rings. They Are an Indication of the Condition Of the Environment At the Time of Growth.

Atlantic Quaghog (Mercenaria, mercenaria)

The Quahog shell is abundant on our beach after storms. Before I knew the scientific name, (Mercenaria, mercenaria), for this hard shelled clam I just called it a “beach clam”. I used the shell to line my garden beds or to make walks, because it is thick and will not break easily like most shells. Up north they like to eat the meat.

In mid summer on the beach I receive great joy from watching the baby clams called coquina (Donax variabilis Say, 1822) pop up out of the sand as the waves roll in and then hurriedly bury themselves as the waves roll out. I call them butterfly wings because of their variation of colors or tiny clams. My Mary loves to collect the empty shells to use on the trees she decorates.

I Would Love To Have a Dollar For Every Shell
Mary Has Glued To Her Trees. Making Shell
Wreaths And Trees Is Her Favorite Hobby.

Sometimes I find thin elongated two-sided shells or just a single side that has sharp edges and resembles my grandfather’s straight razor that I call “razor clams” (Ensis arcuatus). They also bring back memories of the razor strap that often served the purpose of tanning bad boys’ bottoms. This clam is also called the Atlantic jackknife clam.

Razor Clams (Ensis arcuatus)
The Hatteras Razor Clam is a Delicate Shell

Another type of clam I occasionally find is the thorny oyster. They have spikes on them that resemble thorns. Our thorny oysters are not as colorful as the tropical oysters called spondylus which I wrote about in a separate section. Click Here

Many of the clams that we used to find on our beaches have almost disappeared. I think part of the reason for disappearance of the clams is due to pollution. Clams are solution feeders depending on what floats their way. As long as mankind keeps dumping garbage and chemicals in the ocean, shell species will continue to disappear.

Angel Wings
(Cyrtopleura costata Linnaeus, 1758)
   It is seldom you find Angel Wings on Our Beach Anymore

Occasionally you find an angel wing. They acquired this name because they were white and resembled wings. Crafters attached them to homemade dolls to transform the doll into an angel. Traditionally we have been led to believe angels have wings. Some Islanders used to say at the time of death that you could hear the fluttering of the angels wings as they came to take the dying person to heaven. Angels always had wings down at the Buxton Church during the Christmas play. Have you checked the Bible to see if it says angels have wings? Do angels have wings?

Thread shell
Saw-toothed Pen Shell Atrina serrata
(G.B. Sowerby I, 1825)

When the wind is blowing and the days are cool there is a delicate brown colored clam that washes up on our beach. It is the pen shell or known in history as the thread shell. This clam attaches itself to the ocean bottoms by numerous abyssal threads. Ancient crafts men within the Mediterranean area used the threads to produce garments for the rich. When I discover one of these shells on our beach, even though it does not approach the Mediterranean version in size and thickness, I think about how those shells were the fore-runners of many of the things we have in this world today. There is another trait of this shell that is interesting for it is willing to share its living quarters with others. Many times you will find small shrimp living inside of it.

Tropical Thread Shells are Larger and Thicker Than our Atlantic Pen Shell. They Make a Great Conversation Piece When Polished.

Islanders found many uses for the clam shell over the years in addition to eating the meat. As I mentioned in my article about the Cockle Shell Click Here we crushed them in the chicken pen to aide the chickens in digesting their food. As automobiles became more plentiful the clam shell was often used in driveways and walkways. One use I recall was to use a big clam shell as a soap dish. The Lion’s Paw in particular makes a great soap dish or loose change holder. In our shop we try to keep bars of homemade soap in Lion Paw shells available for our guests. It is a great gift item to take back to a friend.

Probably the most recognizable use of clam shells is the many innovative ways artist and crafters have incorporated them into their works. Everywhere you look in our shop you see clam shells art. Things such as: jewelry, wreaths, mirrors lined with scallop shells, boxes made from huge Chinese river clams, and wind chimes from a variety of different types of clams. The list goes on and on and even includes many unusual and beautiful effects that occur when the outer covering of clam shells are removed and polished. One interesting craft in particular is the opening up of a translucent clam and painting the inside of the shell and sealing it back to use as a decorative item. A bowl of many colored or pearled clams makes an impressive display in any home.

Clams have inspired crafters and artist like no other shell. Because of their varieties of color and shapes they have appeared to be prized possession in every know culture.

Venus Clams I found on the Hatteras Beach. It is a beautiful shell when the outermost covering (Periostracum) is removed. Streaks run from the top (umbo) through the growth rings like rays from the early morning sun over ocean water.

One use of the term clam I recall when I was growing up was when my mother would look at me and say, “Clam Up”. Today we say, “shut up”. I like Clam Up better so I will just clam up and let you browse through the pictures of natural and polished clams or should I say pectens, oysters, spondylus (spiney oysters) and flats I keep on hand in my shell shacks.

Saddle Oyster
(Anomia ephippium )

The animal inside the saddle oyster cements itself through a hole in the bottom half of the shell to whatever hard suface is available. It grows to take on the shape of that surface producing a fascinating shell. When cleaned and polish to expose the inner beauty of the shell it makes a beautiful display and can be fashioned into wind chimes

Myacidae Family

Spondylus Regius
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Macabebe Clam
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Silver Heart Clam
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Silver Ahos ahos
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Mactan pearl
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Corculum cardissa
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Circe Scripta Tiger Cockle
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Lion Paws
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Mexican Flats
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Pecten noblis Whole and Half
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Codaki tigrina
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Pecten Yessoensis Baking dish
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Capiz crafing clam
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Sun and Moon White
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Sun and Moon Purple
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Purple Clam polished
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Pecten Albican
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Pecten Pallium
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Pecten Radula
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Pecten Vexillum
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Sunrise Tellin
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Sunset Clam
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Lima Lima
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Cardium Unedo
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Donax Scortum
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Pecten Maccassarensis
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Pecten Thaanumi
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Lima Rathburni
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Chama Lazarus
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Please Note:
We have many other types of clams not listed here available for crafters and Specimen Collectors.


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