You might think you’ve got animals all figured out, but some animals don’t exactly have a…normal…way of reproducing. Enter – clam sex. You may think you have an idea of how clams reproduce, but we’re guessing you really don’t know. Here are the four fundamental steps to clam sex that make this species of mollusk so interesting.
Number Four: Start From the Beginning
First, let’s begin with a few simple facts about clams. Clams are bivalve mollusks that have no brain, a single large retractable foot and a shell. They have existed for over 500 million years and are one of the most successful organisms to exist. Clam species also vary widely; some are microscopic while others can grow up to the size of a microwave. Some live for just one year, and others live for up to 500. Despite this, almost all clams reproduce in the same manner, which speaks to the efficiency of the process.
Number Three: Gender Benders
Clams are dioecious, which means that different members have male and female genitalia. However, clams can also be hermaphrodites, wherein some have both male and female genitalia, and others can change which genitalia they have. Most clams start off as male, and then they proceed to eat and grow until they can settle on the ground. Since male reproductive cells are smaller, less energy is required to replicate them. This means that males can focus more on eating and growing, which is evolutionarily advantageous to the clam. Once the clams reach a certain size, they can then focus on reproduction. It is at this point that the clam will change sexes and begin to produce eggs.
Number Two: Hot in Here
Clams cannot reproduce unless the water is a certain temperature. Once the water has reached a warm enough temperature, young clams (males) and old clams (females) alike release millions of sex cells into the water currents, hoping they will meet up successfully. Once the two sex cells meet, they begin dividing immediately, forming new small males that will begin to grow.
Number One: Survivors
Though millions of clams could theoretically be produced in one “session” of this style of reproduction, the truth is that only 10 percent of the clams made will survive. Despite this, clams continue to be one of the world’s most successful creatures. Aren’t you glad you don’t have to have sex like a clam?