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The “Quahaug,” State Shell of Rhode Island

Posted by Jody on December 8, 2011

"Quahaug" (Image: USDA/Wikimedia Commons)

Rhode Island, has over 400 miles of coastline and boasts over 100 beaches.  Those are pretty impressive numbers for the smallest state in the union! ~Must be why it is nicknamed “The Ocean State.”

“The shellfish that Rhode Islanders call a quahog possesses an impressive variety of names, and even the word “quahog” (which comes from the Narragansett Indian name “poquauhock”) has an alternate spelling, “quahaug,” and a number of pronunciations: KO-hog, KWO-hog, and KWA-hog. The quahog’s scientific name, Mercenaria mercenaria, is derived from a Latin word meaning “wages” and was chosen because Indians used quahog shells to make beads that were used as money (called wampum). In much of the United States, quahogs are simply called “hard clams” or “hard-shell clams” (Sea Grant Rhode Island).  Rhode Island adopted the Quahaug as the official State Shell on June 30, 1987.

Misquamicut Beach, Westerly, Rhode Island (Photo by Juliancolton/Wikimedia Commons)

Misquamicut Beach, Westerly, Rhode Island (Photo by Juliancolton/Wikimedia Commons)

The Northern Quahog, classified as a bivalve mollusk, varies in length from 2 ¾  to near 4 ¼ inches. They live in sand or mud, in the bays and inlets from Texas to Florida, and north along the Atlantic coast to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence in Canada. Northern Quahogs can be found just below the surface of the intertidal flats to water 50 feet deep.

You’ll find a very interesting and thorough Quahog Fact Sheet available online from Rhode Island Sea Grant.

Herring gulls that dot the sky,
blue waves that paint the rocks,
waters rich with Neptune’s life,
the boats that line the docks,
I see the lighthouse flickering
to help the sailors see.
There’s a place for everyone:
Rhode Island’s it for me. ~ from Rhode Island Official State Song: Rhode Island it’s for me! Words by Charlie Hall

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