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These are joined together along one edge (the hinge line) by a flexible ligament that, usually in conjunction with interlocking "teeth" on each of the valves, forms the hinge.

The name "bivalve" is derived from the Latin bis, meaning "two", and valvae, meaning "leaves of a door".

Drawing of freshwater pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera) anatomy: 1: posterior adductor, 2: anterior adductor, 3: outer left gill demibranch, 4: inner left gill demibranch, 5: excurrent siphon, 6: incurrent siphon, 7: foot, 8: teeth, 9: hinge, 10: mantle, 11: umbo Bivalves vary greatly in overall shape.

The shipworms bore into wood, clay, or stone and live inside these substances.

The hinge point or line is the dorsal region of the shell, and the lower, curved margin is the ventral region.

The anterior or front of the shell is where the byssus (when present) and foot are located, and the posterior of the shell is where the siphons are located.

With the umbones/ hinge uppermost and with the anterior edge of the animal towards the viewer's left, the valve facing the viewer is the left valve and the opposing valve the right.

Marine bivalves (including brackish water and estuarine species) represent about 8,000 species, combined in four subclasses and 99 families with 1,100 genera.