A Fine Natural History Specimen of a Giant Clam Shell

Origin: South Pacific/Indian Ocean
Period: Early/Mid Twentieth Century
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1900-50
Height: 5.25 inches
Depth: 8 inches
Width: 14 inches (all at maximum)

The preserved giant clam (Tridacna gigas) shell survives from the south pacific or Indian oceans from the first half of the twentieth century.

The shell is decoratively still beautiful though some of the teeth have chips and losses. She sits both ways, as it were, stably and doesn’t need any kind of support.

These bottom-dwelling behemoths are the largest mollusks on Earth, capable of reaching 4 feet (1.2 meters) in length and weighing more than 500 pounds (227 kg). They live in the warm waters of the South Pacific and Indian Oceans. Giant clams achieve their enormous proportions by consuming the sugars and proteins produced by the billions of algae that live in their tissues.

Giant clams have a wildly undeserved reputation as man-eaters, with South Pacific legends describing clams that lie in wait to trap unsuspecting swimmers or swallow them whole. No account of a human death by giant clam has ever been substantiated, and scientists say its adductor muscles, used to close the shell, move far too slowly to take a swimmer by surprise. Even the largest specimen would simply retreat into its shell rather than attempt to sample human prey.

T. gigas has four or five vertical folds in its shell as its main characteristic. Although on the smaller side for a ‘giant’ clamshell, this example has its advantages namely that it can be placed in far more places than its larger counterparts.

The giant clam gets only one chance to find a nice home and once it fastens itself to a spot on a reef, there it sits for the rest of its life. In its afterlife it is still good for ice, goldfish, soap, bon-bons, that sort of thing.