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common name applied to the heart-shaped, jumping or leaping marine bivalvebivalve,
aquatic mollusk of the class Pelecypoda ("hatchet-foot") or Bivalvia, with a laterally compressed body and a shell consisting of two valves, or movable pieces, hinged by an elastic ligament.
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 mollusks, belonging to the order Eulamellibranchia. The brittle shells are of uniform size, are obliquely spherical, and possess distinct radiating ridges, or ribs, which aid the animal in gripping the sand. The mantle has three distinct apertures (inhalant, exhalant, and pedal) through which the inhalant and exhalant siphons and the foot protrude. The cockle lives in sand and mud in shallow water, often in brackish inlets. It burrows until only the siphons project, pulling in water from which the animal strains the minute planktonic organisms on which it feeds. All cockles are hermaphroditic. In order to accomplish the characteristic jumping form of forward locomotion, the large, powerful, muscular foot is bent backward beneath the shell and then straightened. In most adults, the foot is about as long as the greatest length of the shell.

Several species of cockles are considered to be good, edible clams. In the British Isles, great numbers of cockles are taken annually for food from densely populated beds. These beds have been known to migrate in units, probably in response to changes in currents. Protothaca staminea, the rock cockle, is among the best known and most widely used for food. It usually does not exceed 3 in. (7.5 cm) in length. Rock cockles are poor diggers and inhabit packed mud, or gravel mixed with sand, usually 8 in. (20 cm) below the surface. They are found on the Pacific Coast near the rocky shores of bays and estuaries. Those inhabiting the open coast during the summer months should not be eaten because they may be infected with toxin-producing organisms. P. semidecussata, the Japanese littleneck clam, is smaller but considered to be better-flavored than the rock cockle. The shell is more elongated, with a brownish to bluish banding on one end. It inhabits an environment similar to that of P. staminea and is widespread in Puget Sound, Wash.; British Columbia; and San Francisco and Tomales Bay, Calif.

Unlike the genus Protothaca, the basket cockles (Clinocardium nuttalli, or Cardium corbis) are good diggers and have a large foot. Lacking siphon tubes, basket cockles burrow only slightly beneath the surface and inhabit sand flats, particularly along the Pacific Coast. They are considered good eating clams but are too few in number to be widely marketed. They are most abundant in British Columbia and in Puget Sound, Wash., with fewer found south as far as Baja California and north as far as the Bering Sea.

The hard shell cockles, genus Chione, are found from San Pedro, Calif., S into Mexico. The giant Atlantic cockle, Dinocardium robustum (Cardium magnum), reaches 5 in. (12.5 cm) in diameter and is found along the Atlantic Coast from Virginia to Brazil. It has shells with toothed margins, strikingly colored in yellowish brown with spots and transverse stripes of chestnut or purple. Cockles are classified in the phylum MolluscaMollusca
, taxonomic name for the one of the largest phyla of invertebrate animals (Arthropoda is the largest) comprising more than 50,000 living mollusk species and about 35,000 fossil species dating back to the Cambrian period.
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, class Pelecypoda or Bivalvia, order Eulamellibranchia.

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(invertebrate zoology)
The common name for a number of species of marine mollusks in the class Bivalvia characterized by a shell having convex radial ribs.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. any sand-burrowing bivalve mollusc of the family Cardiidae, esp Cardium edule (edible cockle) of Europe, typically having a rounded shell with radiating ribs
2. any of certain similar or related molluscs
3. short for cockleshell
4. a small furnace or stove


any of several plants, esp the corn cockle, that grow as weeds in cornfields
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
'Welsh women cockle picking on the Gower' - some of the atmospheric works by artist Lyndford Jones
'The cockles seem to appear on the surface of the sandy part of the island because the high tide recedes much further than usual, and the depth of the water is just 0.6 metre,' he said when contacted by Bernama.
The present work introduces an improved synthesis method to produce cockle shell-based calcium carbonate aragonite polymorph nanoparticle with surface functionalization.
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Natural Resources Wales (NRW) had initially shut the beds for the entire season, but later lifted the ban for an eightweek period after a "very late and unusual spat fall" meant around 600 tonnes of cockles could be harvested.
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He said: "There've been problems in the past with illegal cockle collection at Hartlepool Marina in the Middleton Basin at the rear of the marina, also at Bran Sands on the Tees Estuary and at Seal Sands.
"Obtaining this certificate acknowledges the work the Agency has done in introducing a licensing system that maintains cockle pickers' livelihoods and ensures cockles are gathered without damaging the environment."
Several hundred thousand pounds have been spent on trying to licence the cockle fishing but to no avail.
The estuary is home to one of the largest landings of the common cockle in Wales and provides a livelihood to around 50 fishermen, who operate under licenses issued by Environment Agency Wales.
Cockles fetch an astonishing amount of money at market.