Both clams and mussels are popular seafood found widely within the world’s oceans. One prefers to bury itself in the ocean or riverbed, while the other lives in large clusters, attaching itself to various substrates like rocks and piers.

A group of clamsMussels
Clams (left) vs Mussels (right)

Key Differences and Similarities Between Clams and Mussels

  • Shell Shape: the shape of their shells of the clearest differences between the two. They have different shapes and textures. Plus, clams grow to a larger size.
  • Habitat: Mussels live together in groups, attached to something, while clams reside half buried in the ocean floor. They also live in all the world’s oceans besides in the polar regions.
    Taste: since both clams and mussels are popular dishes, it’s important to note that we consumers, one of the primary differences is the way that the two taste. Mussels are generally considered to be a more versatile food.
  • Size: Clams can grow to be far larger than mussels. The largest clam ever discovered was around 4.25 feet long and over 500 pounds. 

We’ll explore these differences and exciting facts about these creatures below.

What is a Clam? 

The term “clam” is used to describe different bivalve mollusks. More often than not, the word is only used for those species that are eaten. Clams are the most commonly eaten marine bivalves. They’re commonly used in soup. 

A group of clams
Clams are a type of bivalve mollusk

There are migrant species of clam, including the soft clam, grooved carpet shell clam, Atlantic surf clam, and the pod razor clam. 


One of the key difference tween clams and mussels is the shape of their shell. Clams have a long, round shell that’s usually smooth. They are hard to open, and their organs are on the inside. They come in different sizes, with the longest ever discovered, weighing an incredible 500 pounds and reaching 4 1/4 feet long.

The clam’s shell has two sides that are the same size and are usually oval in shape. The only exception is the razor clam.


Clams spend most of their lives half-buried on the ocean floor or the riverbed. They live around the world in fresh and saltwater. In the world’s oceans, it’s more common to find clams buried deeper to get out of turbulent currents.

Clams live very different lives depending on the species. Some only live a year, while the oldest clam ever tested was over 500 years old.


Clams, like mussels, are filter feeders. Many species have a siphon that they use to ingest micro-organisms like plankton.


As with mussels, the most common threat that clams face is from human beings. They are eaten in huge numbers around the world. They are also a primary source of food for many more animals. This includes sea birds. It’s very common to find sea lions and bearded seals, or even river otters, feeding on clams. Octopuses also feature clams as one of the primary sources of food in their diet.

What is a Mussel? 

A mussel is a bivalve mollusk, like a clam, that lives in both saltwater and freshwater habitats. They are eaten by people around the world.

Mussels are generally dark-colored and oblong
Mussels are generally dark-colored and oblong


Mussels are quite different in appearance from clams. They are usually oblong in shape with a round, thin shell. On the inside, they are somewhere between black, silver, and grey in color. The most common size mussels sold in stores are around 40mm long. Most shells are longer than they are wide.

The shell has three layers, and all mussels have a large organ called a foot. It’s used to pull the animal through sand or whatever substrate it’s traveling in. Marine mussels have smaller feet than freshwater mussels.


It’s most common to find marine mussels in groups, clumped together on rocks by their byssus. This allows them to stay safely in place no matter how strong the current gets. 

Most commonly, mussels live in intertidal zones in temperate waters. Some live in tropical areas, but this isn’t as common. Depending on the species, some prefer salt marshes or calm water, while others prefer living in the surf. 

Freshwater mussels usually live in lakes, rivers, streams, and everywhere around the world besides the polar regions (the same as clams). 

A single mussel
Mussels are eaten around the world


The two different types of mussels, freshwater, and marine, are filter feeders. They usually eat plankton and other microscopic ocean creatures that they draw into their bodies through a siphon.


The most common threat that mussels face is being eaten by humans and numerous other species like starfish and seabirds. Depending on their location, freshwater mussels are also eaten by ducks, humans, geese, and more. 


Are mussels and clams the same?

No, mussels and clams are not the same. They are both bivalve mollusks, but they are different creatures that have unique appearances. 

Are mussels or clams more expensive?

Generally, clams are more affordable than mussels. But that’s not always the case. Often, buying mussels in bulk is more affordable than it is to buy a large number of clams. 

Do mussels have pearls?

Mussels have been known to hold pearls, or at least freshwater mussels have. But it’s very rare to find one that’s at all valuable. 

Do mussels have eyes?

No, mussels do not have eyes. They also don’t have heads, arms, legs, ears, or other recognizable features. The only appendage they sport is a single foot that they can use to move around the sea floor. 

Do mussels have a brain?

No, mussels do not have a brain. They are very simple creatures without a point of centrality or a brain. For some, this is proof that they do not feel pain or understand anything that goes on around them. 

Do mussels have gender?

Some mussels have separate genders, while others are hermaphrodites. This means that individuals are capable of carrying both male and female reproductive organs in their bodies.

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