Hello, I'm Amanda and I just dug a Surf Clam with my toes! Honest! Yes, I vouch for the digging. Maybe she wanted to keep her fingernails clean. We all had a ball digging these big clams on Head Beach, taking advantage of an extremely low tide. It is then that the clams can be found by looking for their holes in the sand. They are not down too far, but sometimes require a hefty pull to extract the clam. These mollusks are equipped with a muscular foot they use to dig. Maybe that was where Amanda got the idea! Normally, they remain under water, even at low tide.
We all easily found these clams primarily used for chowder. Instead of keeping them for cooking, we ate their choice adductor muscles which are tasty and tender when eaten raw. But there is another amazing thing about these hard shelled clams. We placed a few in a pan with Starfish. The clams became agitated and shot out their muscular foot to jump away! Who told you that clams are sedentary animals? Not these. They also use that foot to dig in the sand and remain seated in the sand when the waves overhead are crashing all around them. Clams are special creatures, and we wanted to save them for another day. So, those with strong pitching arms threw the clams back into the ocean. There, they will be safe from hungry gulls, and free to do their digging.
Without a doubt the most unusual find was a Chiton. I only find these once in a while, so it was a treat. The one we found was quite small. It looks like a Limpet, but instead of having one shell sucking onto the substrate it has a shield-like shell of eight separate plates. These separate shell plates allow the chiton to stick to curved surfaces. If it becomes dislodged, it rolls up in a protective ball much like a pill bug!
Another "first" occurred on an early morning beach hunt. We walked in the water, which incidentally has warmed up a bit. There, we were lucky enough to net a moon snail in the process of trying to capture and eat a razor clam! Moon snails plow through the sand looking for just such tasty items. Never mind that it has to deal with a hard shell. This snail has a strong, enveloping, foot that holds clams until they open...or else drills a hole to suck out the meat. In the picture, you will see the snail's foot wrapped around the long razor clam. It looks like a finger is protruding, but that is the foot of the clam trying to work its way free. I have to admit that we interrupted this battle of snail vs. clam, and eventually the Moon Snail let go of the clam. I feel sure if we had not found these animals so engaged, the snail would have come out the winner.
All of these discoveries were made easier by the extremely low tides we've had these past few days. We also found quite a few small lobsters left stranded and easily found under rocks. Again, we let all these wonderful creatures go back to their salty homes in the ocean. 7/7/04 Clammy Ronnie