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Bivalvia is a class of marine and freshwater molluscs with laterally compressed bodies enclosed by a shell in two hinged parts. Bivalves include clams, oysters, mussels, scallops, and numerous other families of shells. The majority are filter feeders. Most bivalves bury themselves in sediment on the seabed, where they are safe from predation. Others lie on the sea floor or attach themselves to rocks or other hard surfaces. Some bivalves, such as the scallops, can swim.
The shell of a bivalve is composed of calcium carbonate, and consists of two, usually similar, parts called valves. These are joined together along one edge by a flexible ligament that, in conjunction with interlocking "teeth" on each of the valves, forms the hinge. The shell is typically bilaterally symmetrical, with the hinge lying in the sagittal plane. Adult shell sizes vary from fractions of a millimetre to over a metre in length, but the majority of species do not exceed 10 cm (4 in).
Bivalves appear in the fossil record first in the early Cambrian more than 500 million years ago. The total number of living species is approximately 9,200. These species are placed within 1,260 genera and 106 families. Marine bivalves (including brackish water and estuarine species) represent about 8,000 species, combined in four subclasses and 99 families with 1,100 genera. The largestrecent marine family is the Veneridae, with more than 680 species. (see more...)