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Brief Summary

Many cockles found on the beach are fossils. They date back to the Eemian interglacial period. In those days, a warmer climate dominated the North Sea region. There were many species no longer found nowadays: poorly-ribbed cockles, spiny cockles, rough cockles and little cockles. Most of them closely resemble the present (common) cockles, but as a rule are much thicker. Due to the age, the shells are opaque and dark brown to black in color, and often worn.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats
Specimen Records:970
Specimens with Sequences:826
Specimens with Barcodes:508
Species With Barcodes:47
Public Records:761
Public Species:36
Public BINs:44
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Barcode data

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Cockle (bivalve)

A cockle is a small, edible, saltwater clam, a mollusc in the family Cardiidae. Various species of cockles live in sandy, sheltered beaches throughout the world. The distinctive rounded shells of cockles are bilaterally symmetrical, and are heart-shaped when viewed from the end. Numerous radial evenly-spaced ribs occur in most but not all genera (for an exception, see the genus Laevicardium, the egg cockles, which have very smooth shells). Cockle shells are able to close completely (i.e., they do not have a "gape" at any point around their edges). Though they may superficially resemble scallops, cockles can be distinguished from scallops morphologically in that cockle shells lack "auricles" (triangular ear shapes near the hinge line) and scallop shells lack a pallial sinus. Behaviorally, cockles also live buried in sediment whereas scallops live on the sea floor attached by a byssus or are free-living.

The mantle has three apertures (inhalant, exhalant, and pedal) for siphoning water and for the foot to protrude. Cockles typically burrow using the foot, and feed by filtering plankton from the surrounding water. Cockles are capable of "jumping" by bending and straightening the foot. As is the case in many bivalves, cockles display gonochorism (the sex of an individual varies according to conditions),[2] and some species reach maturity quickly.

The common name "cockle" is also given by seafood sellers to a number of other small, edible marine bivalves which have a somewhat similar shape and sculpture, but are in other families such as the Veneridae (Venus clams) and the Arcidae (ark clams). Cockles in the family Cardiidae are sometimes known as "true cockles" to distinguish them from these other species.


There are more than 200 living species of cockles, with many more fossil forms.[3]

The common cockle, Cerastoderma edule, is widely distributed around the coastlines of Northern Europe, with a range extending west to Ireland, the Barents Sea in the north, Norway in the east, and as far south as Senegal.

The dog cockle, Glycymeris glycymeris, has a similar range and habitat to the common cockle, but is unrelated. It is edible but due to its toughness when cooked it is generally not eaten, although a process is being developed to solve this.[4]

The blood cockle, Anadara granosa (not related to the true cockles, instead in the family Arcidae) is extensively cultured from southern Korea to Malaysia.[5]


Genera within the family Cardiidae include:

In cuisine and culture[edit]

Cockles are a popular type of edible shellfish in both Eastern and Western cooking. They are collected by raking them from the sands at low tide. However, collecting cockles is hard work and, as seen from the Morecambe Bay disaster, in which 23 illegal immigrants died, can be dangerous if local tidal conditions are not carefully watched. In England and Wales, Magna Carta grants every citizen the right to collect up to eight pounds of cockles from the foreshore. However, pickers wishing to collect more than eight pounds are deemed to be engaging in commercial fishing and are required to obtain a permit from the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority.[6]

Cockles are sold freshly cooked as a snack in the United Kingdom, particularly in those parts of the British coastline where cockles are abundant. Boiled, then seasoned with malt vinegar and white pepper, they can be bought from seafood stalls, which also often have for sale mussels, whelks, jellied eels, crabs and shrimps. Cockles are also available pickled in jars, and more recently, have been sold in sealed packets (with vinegar) containing a plastic two-pronged fork. A meal of cockles fried with bacon, served with laver bread, is known as a traditional Welsh breakfast.

Boiled cockles (sometimes grilled) are sold at many hawker centers in Southeast Asia, and are used in laksa, char kway teow and steamboat. They are called kerang in Malay and see hum in Cantonese.

In Japan, Japanese Egg Cockle Leavicardium laevigatum is used to create torigai sushi.

A study conducted in England in the early 1980s showed a correlation between the consumption of cockles, presumed to be incorrectly processed, and an elevated local occurrence of hepatitis.[7]

Cockles are an effective bait for a wide variety of sea fishes. The folk song "Molly Malone" is also known as "Cockles and Mussels" because the title character's sale of the two foods is referenced in the song's refrain. The shells of cockles are mentioned in the English nursery rhyme "Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary". Cockles are also eaten by the indigenous peoples of North America.[8]

In New Zealand cockles are eaten raw, just after picking them up on the beach.

Alternate meanings[edit]

The common English phrase "it warms the cockles of my heart", is used to mean that a feeling of deep-seated contentment has been generated.

Differing derivations of this phrase have been proposed, either directly from the perceived heart-shape of a cockleshell, or indirectly (the scientific name for the type genus of the family is Cardium, from the Latin for heart), or from the Latin diminutive of the word heart, corculum. Another proposed derivation is from the Latin for the ventricles of the heart, cochleae cordis, where the second word is an inflected form of cor, heart, while cochlea is the Latin for snail.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Serge Gofas (2013). "Cardioidea". World Register of Marine Species. 
  2. ^ "Synthesis on biology of Common European Cockle (Cerastoderma edule". Retrieved 2012-10-13. 
  3. ^ "Cardiidae (Cockles)". Retrieved 2012-10-13. 
  4. ^ {\phi_s}. "European Food Research and Technology, Volume 210, Number 1". SpringerLink. Retrieved 2012-10-13. 
  5. ^ "Status of mollusc culture in selected Asian countries". Retrieved 2012-10-13. 
  6. ^ "Cocklers barred from Ribble estuary after coastguard checks". BBC News. 2011-11-01. Retrieved 2011-11-01. 
  7. ^ O'Mahony; Gooch, Smyth, et al. (1983). "Epidemic hepatitis A from cockles". NIH. Retrieved 2006-03-25. 
  8. ^ Great Blue Heron - Robert William Butler, Robert Butler - Google Books
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