Mercenaria campechiensis Gmelin, 1791
The Southern Quahog shell is much thicker and heavier than the Northern Quahog. It is ridged over the entire surface with concentric lines. The somewhat inflated, roundish bivalve has a distinct beak which is off-center and points toward the anterior end of the shell. The clam shell is a dull grayish-white color; the inside is dull, chalky white, and lacks the complete purple border often characteristic of its Northern “cousin” Quahog. There are two muscle scars on the interior surface of each valve of the clam. These muscle scars are connected by a pallial line (where the mantel of the clam was attached to the shell) with a deep sinus (where the siphon was attached to the shell). The shell may measure as much as 5 inches in diameter.
These big, sturdy shells, when well-cleaned, make good stove-top holders on which to place cooking spoons. And Quahogs, caught alive, make for excellent eating. Dig for them in salt marshes, during clam season (in South Carolina, for example, clamming is prohibited in June, July, and August). When you get your clams home, purge them by putting 1 cup cornmeal or 1 small box of black pepper in their bucket of water. In one day that will purge the clams of grit, etc., in their systems.
Long ago, Indians made “wampum” from the thick shell by breaking it, then drilling and punching out ¼-inch, elongated, tubular beads.
The Southern Quahog lives offshore in sand or mud to a water depth of 120 feet. It also may be found in salt marshes, as previously described. It is found from New Jersey to Florida, Texas, Mexico, the Yucatan, and Cuba.