Butter Clams at Goose Spit

One of the clams that we discovered on Tuesday at Goose Spit was the Butter Clam (Saxidomus gigantea). Clams belong in the Phylum Mollusca, Class Bivalvia and are characterized by having two shells or valves. They are filter feeders and take microscopic organisms out of the water that they draw into their bodies through a siphon.

Butter Clam (Saxidomus gigantea)
Butter Clam (Saxidomus gigantea), showing the smooth interior and muscle scars.

These large, heavy shelled clams can be found buried up to 30cm deep are common in the lower part of the intertidal zone to depths of 40m. Butter Clams can be up to 15cm across and make excellent clam chowder. Always check for shellfish closures before harvesting the clams and remove the black tips of the siphons while preparing the meat as PSP toxin can accumulate there.

Butter Clam (Saxidomus gigantea)
The thick, heavy shells of the Butter Clam (Saxidomus gigantea) gape at the posterior end.

One of the diagnostic features that helps to identify a Butter Clam is a series of “teeth” at the hinge. These fit together when the shell is closed.

Butter Clam (Saxidomus gigantea)
The inner shell of the Butter Clam (Saxidomus gigantea) showing the "teeth" at the hinge.

Discovering these shells on such a cool day made me think of only one thing – heading back to the house and putting on a big pot of clam chowder. Now I’ve just got to find a good recipe and some live clams.

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