Clam dissection (or mussel)

Students look at the inside of a real clam (or mussel). They identify major body parts of the clam, and compare them to human anatomy.
Science content
Biology: Features, Adaptations of Living Things (K, 1, 3, 7)
Biology: Classification of Living Things, Biodiversity (1, 3)
Biology: Sensing, Organ Systems (4, 5, 6)

Optional: precede this activity with finding clams on a beach.

The clam has a muscle that keeps the shell tightly closed. The frozen clams will open up slightly, revealing this white adductor muscle.
Cut the muscle or simply pull open the clam to look at the internal organs.
Give students a photo of the inside of a clam to help them find the parts. (Photograph of the inside of a clam web archived at:…)
Clams and humans are both animals, but they are a mollusc and we are a mammal, so we might expect that some body parts are the same and some are different.
Students find each organ in the clam. The function of each part is discussed as they find them, or after all parts are found..
Optional: use the attached worksheet to compare the clam's body parts with ours.
1. The clam SHELL protects the clam. It is its shelter. We do not carry our shelter with us.
2. The MANTLE makes the shell. We do not have a mantle, as we do not have a shell.
3. The clam FOOT helps the clam dig into the sand. We move with our FEET too.
4. The clam GILLS take oxygen from the water (like fish). We have LUNGS for taking in oxygen. (Students may need a toothpick to gently lift up the gills to see them properly).
5. One of the clam SIPHONS sucks in water. Tiny food particles in the water get stuck in tiny hairs on the gills. Then the food gets washed towards the clam's mouth inside the body. The water goes back out the other siphon. We eat with our MOUTH. (Students may need to straighten out the siphons with a toothpick to see them properly.)

Note: a mussel has similar parts, but they are arranged a little differently. See…

Video on restoration of clam gardens:

Grades taught
Gr K
Gr 1
Gr 2
Gr 3
Gr 4
Gr 5