Brachiopod, a clamlike animal that inhabits the bottoms of oceans. Brachiopods are also called lampshells because they have shells that typically resemble ancient oil lamps. Most kinds of brachiopods attach themselves to rocks or other objects by a stalk, called a peduncle. Some species burrow. Brachiopods range in length from 1/4 inch to 3 inches (6 to 76 mm).
A brachiopod has a soft body protected by two shells, one above and the other below. At the front of the body is a spiral-shaped organ called a lophophore. The lophophore has tentacles that draw in water through an opening between the shells; the water contains oxygen and microscopic food particles.
There are about 300 species of brachiopods. During the Paleozoic Era, from 570 to 240 million years ago, there were about 30,000 species of brachiopods. Some were as long as 12 inches (30 cm).
Brachiopods make up the phylum Brachiopoda.