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This is an octopus resting on a reef.
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Windows Original, adapted from Corel Photography

Molluscs

The phylum Mollusca contains a variety of animals, including snails, octopi and squid, along with lesser known creatures like Cowry and Limpets. Over 90,000 species of molluscs fall into the Gastropoda class. The beautiful shells you see when walking along the beach were probably part of this class at one time. They are rather simple creatures, feasting on sponges or other small animals. Some live near reefs, while others prefer the mud or even sandy shores.

Oysters, scallops and clams are part of the Bivalvia class because they have two shell halves compared to the Gastropods, which only have one. Bivalves enjoy tiny organisms like plankton and sometimes algae. They aren't as beautiful as the Gastropods, but they make a much better dinner!

Finally, there are the Cephalopods, probably the most famous molluscs but also the most mistaken. Cephalopods are more biologically advanced than the other molluscs, so many people don't realize they are all in the same phylum. Squids and octopi are the most common cephalopods, and they are also the largest. Some giant squids can reach lengths of 50 feet! These larger animals, like the octopus in the image, eat fish, crustaceans and other molluscs.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA