Date of introduction and origin
Mya arenaria is thought to have been introduced from
the American coast during the 16th or 17th century. However, there
is also evidence that the Vikings transported this species to
Europe from America as early as 1245 (Petersen et al.
Method of introduction
It may have been deliberately introduced for food or bait, or
larvae may have been transported accidentally in the bilges of
Reasons for success
Rate of spread and methods involved
This species has spread all around the coast of Britain,
apparently by natural dispersal of larvae.
It is found on all British and Irish coasts, and on European
North Sea coasts from northern Scandinavia and the Faeroes to
Arcachon in France (Seaward 1990).
Factors likely to influence spread and distribution
Effects on the environment
Effects on commercial interests
Control methods used and effectiveness
In the USA this species is considered a delicacy and is used
for "clam-bakes" at the beach. However, in Britain its use as a
food is uncommon.
Lessons to be learnt, Comments
Fossils of M. arenaria dating from up to the end of
the Pleiocene Epoch which ended 1.6 million years ago show it was
previously native to Europe. It is thought to have become extinct
during the Pleistocene Epoch, when Europe passed through a series
of ice ages (Foster 1946). It was introduced either by the Vikings
or during the 16th or 17th century and has become
Foster, R.W. 1946. The genus Mya in the western
Atlantic. Johnsonia, 2: 20.
Hayward, P.J., & Ryland, J.S. eds. 1990. The
marine fauna of the British Isles and north-west Europe. 2
vols. Oxford, Clarendon Press.
Petersen, K.S., Rasmussen, K.L., Heinemeler, J., & Rud, N.
1992. Clams before Columbus? Nature, 359:
Seaward, D.R. 1990. Distribution of the marine molluscs of
north west Europe. Peterborough, Nature Conservancy Council,
for Conchological Society of Great Britain and Ireland.