American Oceans

The Difference Between a Scallop and a Clam

Scallops and clams are both bivalve mollusks found in oceans, seas, and freshwater bodies. While they may look similar, there are several differences between the two. Scallops have a round or oval-shaped shell and are usually larger than clams. In contrast, clams have a more elongated shell and can vary in size depending on the species.

a scallop underwater

One of the most significant differences between scallops and clams is their taste and texture. Scallops are known for their sweet and delicate flavor, while clams have a more briny and savory taste. Scallops also have a firmer texture compared to clams, which have a softer and chewier texture. These differences in taste and texture make scallops and clams suitable for different culinary purposes.

Another difference between scallops and clams is their habitat and lifestyle. Scallops are usually found in deeper waters, while clams can be found in both shallow and deep waters. Scallops are also more active swimmers and can move around by flapping their shells, while clams are primarily sedentary and burrow in the sand or mud. These differences in habitat and behavior also affect the way they are harvested and prepared for consumption.

Clam vs Scallop

lots of clams in a pile

Clams and scallops are both bivalve mollusks, meaning they have a hinged shell made up of two halves. They are both filter feeders, using their siphon gills and cilia to draw in water and filter out oxygen and food particles. However, there are some key differences between the two.

One of the main differences between clams and scallops is their mode of locomotion. Clams are primarily burrowing animals, using their muscular foot to dig into the substrate. Scallops, on the other hand, are able to swim through the water by rapidly opening and closing their shells, which propels them forward.

Another difference is the structure of their shells. Clams typically have a thicker, heavier shell that is more rounded in shape. Scallops have a flatter, more disc-shaped shell that is often ribbed or scalloped around the edges.

In terms of anatomy, both clams and scallops have two adductor muscles that are used to close their shells. However, scallops also have a large, fan-shaped muscle called the “pecten” that is used for swimming.

When it comes to culinary uses, both clams and scallops are prized for their sweet, delicate flavor and tender texture. Clams are often used in chowders, soups, and pasta dishes, while scallops are commonly pan-seared or grilled and served as a main course.

Physical Characteristics

colorful scallops underwater

Scallops and clams have distinct physical characteristics. Scallops have a rounder shell with ridges on the surface, while clams have a more elongated shell with a smoother surface. The shells of both scallops and clams are usually symmetrical, with one half of the shell mirroring the other half.


Scallops and clams also differ in size. Scallops are generally larger than clams, with a typical size of 2-3 inches in diameter, while clams are usually around 1-2 inches in length. However, there are some species of clams, such as the geoduck clam, that can grow up to 15 inches in length.


Scallops and clams are both found in the ocean floor, but they prefer different habitats. Scallops are usually found in shallow waters, such as bays and estuaries, while clams can be found in both shallow and deep waters. Some species of clams, such as the razor clam, are found in sandy beaches, while others, such as the giant clam, are found in coral reefs.

Nutritional Value

Scallops and clams are both nutritious shellfish that offer a range of health benefits. They are both low in calories and fat, making them a great choice for those looking to maintain a healthy weight.

Scallops are a good source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin B12. They are also high in minerals such as potassium, zinc, and selenium. A 100-gram serving of scallops contains approximately 18 grams of protein, 0.8 grams of fat, and 111 calories.

Clams are also a good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. They are particularly rich in iron, with a 100-gram serving of clams containing approximately 28 milligrams of iron. Clams are also high in other important minerals such as calcium, potassium, and zinc. A 100-gram serving of clams contains approximately 22 grams of protein, 1.5 grams of fat, and 148 calories.

Both scallops and clams are low in carbohydrates, making them a good choice for those following a low-carb diet. They are also a good source of vitamins, including vitamin B12, which is important for maintaining healthy nerve function.

Varieties of Scallops and Clams

barnacle covered scallops

Scallops and clams are two types of bivalve mollusks that are popularly consumed all over the world. While they share some similarities, there are also some key differences between the two. This section will explore the different varieties of scallops and clams.

Sea Scallops

Sea scallops are one of the most popular types of scallops and are found in the Atlantic Ocean. They are larger than bay scallops, with a meaty texture and sweet flavor. Sea scallops are usually sold shucked and are often used in dishes like ceviche, sushi, and pasta. They are also commonly broiled, grilled, or sautéed.

Bay Scallops

Bay scallops are smaller than sea scallops and are found in the bays and estuaries of the Atlantic Ocean. They have a delicate flavor and a tender, buttery texture. Bay scallops are often used in dishes like chowders, stews, and salads. They are also commonly pan-seared or fried.


Clams are also bivalve mollusks and come in a variety of species, including littleneck, cherrystone, and quahog. Clams have a chewy texture and a briny, salty flavor. They are often used in dishes like clam chowder, linguine with clams, and clam bakes. Clams can also be eaten raw, steamed, or fried.

Harvesting and Availability

a weoman holding a handful of clams

Both scallops and clams are harvested from the ocean floor, but the two have different methods of harvesting. Clams are typically harvested using rakes or dredges that are pulled along the ocean floor to collect the clams. In contrast, scallops are often harvested by divers or by dragging a net along the ocean floor.

The availability of clams and scallops can vary depending on a variety of factors. Clams are found in both saltwater and freshwater environments and can be harvested year-round. However, the availability of different types of clams can vary depending on the season and location. For example, soft-shell clams are typically harvested in the summer months in the northeastern United States.

Scallops, on the other hand, are typically found in saltwater environments and are harvested during specific seasons. In some areas, scallops are only harvested during specific months of the year to ensure sustainability. Fresh scallops are highly sought after by chefs and consumers, but they are only available in certain areas and during specific times of the year.

Both clams and scallops can be found in sandy ocean floor environments, but they can also be found in rocky areas. The type of environment in which they are found can impact the flavor and texture of the shellfish.

In terms of availability, clams are generally more widely available and can be found in most grocery stores and seafood markets. Fresh scallops, on the other hand, may be more difficult to find and are often more expensive than other types of shellfish.

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