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bivalve photo

# of Described Species: 10,000
First Appearance: Lower Cambrian
Habitats: Marine, estuarine, and freshwater
Shapes: Mostly with 2 shells, some are worm-like
Feeding Types: Mostly suspension feeders, some detritivors

Anyone that has ever slurped down an oyster, worn a pearl around their neck, or enjoyed the half-shells found on the beach has come into contact with bivalves. But bivalves are much more than that. The second most diverse group of mollusks behind gastropods, bivalves are one of the most important members of most marine and freshwater ecosystems. In fact, there are well over 10,000 described species of bivalve, found from the deepest depths of the oceans, to the streams in your backyard.

Bivalves are easily recognized by their two-halved shell. They can burrow into the sediment, live on top of the ocean's floor. Some can even move around through the water by snapping their shell open and shut to swim. Not all bivalves still have a shell though, some have evolved a reduced shell or completely lost the shell.

Throughout history, bivalves have been one of the most important marine animals to humans. They have been used for food, jewelry, decoration, even money. Indeed, with their popularity as food today, it is likely that everyone will ocme into contact with these remarkable animals throughout their lives.

Thousands of miniature clams for sale at a fish market in China.

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