Giant Heart Cockle (Dinocardium robustum Lightfoot, 1786)

Giant Heart Cockle
Dinocardium robustum Lightfoot, 1786

Giant Heart Cockle:
Chowder-Maker's Friend

By Patricia B. Mitchell.

The Giant Heart Cockle, like other cockle shells, owes its scientific name to the fact that intact cockle shells, with the two halves of the bivalve joined, are heart-shaped. (Look at them from the side.) Hence, the name “Cardiidae” — similar to “cardio.”

This shell can be found on beaches from Virginia to North Florida and Texas. An average adult shell is 3-5 inches in length. (That is the measurement from one side to the other, opposite the “beak” and hinge area.) Each half of the bivalve has a high arch, or, as conchologists and malacologists say, it is “well-inflated.” The exterior is yellow-tan with a few chestnut or purplish bar-shaped marks. The posterior slope (the edge away from which the beak points) is brownish-purple. The inside of the shell is rosy-salmon colored, with white margins, or edges.

The living animal is often used as an ingredient in making chowder. In Europe, cockle-gathering is a common seaside activity. There, various members of the cockle family are eaten raw, or used in recipes interchangeably with mussels.


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