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The Mariana crow actually uses its bill to peck and break the shell at the seams to extract the vulnerable crab.

https://corvidresearch.blog/tag/extinct-crow/

I was told it wasn't an idiom, so I am wondering if it's a valid metaphorical usage. I do see it often.

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Break is literal in this context. It means

VERB broke, broken
1 Separate or cause to separate into pieces as a result of a blow, shock, or strain.

(Lexico, n. d.)

"At the seam" is an idiomatic way of saying "entirely".

at the seams
: ENTIRELY, COMPLETELY
falling apart at the seams

(Merriam-Webster, n. d.)

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  • Is break and break apart synonymous? It seems you can say break instead of break apart, and break apart seems more idiomatic with "at the seams".
    – Sayaman
    May 15 at 14:11
  • Break and break apart are definitely not synonymous. I think they are both idiomatic.
    – user178049
    May 15 at 14:32
  • I meant to say break is more general than break apart and break apart is just more specific.
    – Sayaman
    May 15 at 14:35
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    "At the seams" is also literal in this context; the idiom you mentioned is not relevant.
    – randomhead
    May 15 at 14:37
  • What @randomhead said. "At the seams" here simply refers to the literal "seam" joining the carapace (top shell) to the underbelly. May 15 at 15:20

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