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Nature Life: Clam And Nature

By Obiabin Onukwugha

Clam is a common name for several kinds of bivalve molluscs. The word is often applied only to those that are edible and live as infauna, spending most of their lives halfway buried in the sand of the seafloor or riverbeds.

Clams have two shells of equal size connected by two adductor muscles and have a powerful burrowing foot. They live in both freshwater and marine environments; in salt water they prefer to burrow down into the mud.

Clams are shellfish that make up an important part of the web of life that keeps the seas functioning, both as filter feeders and as a food source for many different animals.

Researchers note that some clams have life cycles of only one year, while at least one has been aged to over 500 years old.

Extant mammals that eat clams include; both the Pacific and Atlantic species of walrus, sea lions, bearded seals, river otters. Birds of all kinds will also eat clams if they can catch them in the littoral zone.

Some species of clams, particularly Mercenaria mercenaria, were in the past used by the Algonquians of Eastern North America to manufacture wampum, a type of sacred jewellery; and to make shell money.

Yourubas call it “kilamu”, Igbos call it “njide”.

The Clam, Sandpiper and the Fisherman

Once upon a time, a clam emerged at the edge of the shore. It unlocked its shell to dry itself in the sun. At the same time, a sandpiper was flying overhead, observing its prospective prey.

The sandpiper swooped down as the clam’s shell opened, extending its long beak to devour the clam’s flesh. But the clam suddenly and forcefully closed its shell, tightly clenching the sandpiper’s beak.

The sandpiper pulled with the strength of its spindly legs to break free, but it could not liberate itself from the clam’s grasp. Meanwhile, the clam could not return to the water, as it did not have the muscle to move itself while also dragging the sandpiper.

The sandpiper said, “If you insist on holding on to me, and it does not rain today or tomorrow, you will dry out and die of thirst.” This angered the clam, who retorted, “If I do not release you today or tomorrow, you will not be able to eat, and you will die of hunger.”

Neither the sandpiper nor the clam would yield to the other. As they struggled, by chance, a fisherman walked by.

When he saw that both animals were unable to move, he snatched them up in one motion and took them home for his dinner.


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