What are razor clams?

The Pacific Razor Clam (Siliqua patula) is an excellent eating clam that lives on the coast from California to Alaska. They are found on the beaches starting usually around the average tide line and continue out into the ocean for up to a mile. The largest razor clams are found in Alaska where they can attain lengths of over seven inches. As razor clams grow, they change in color. The shell has an oval pattern that is the shape of the clam. Young clams start out brown, become yellowish brown, then go back to being brown again. The inside of the shell is shiny and white. They are a prized sport and food source. Digging, cleaning, and cooking razor clams are all relatively simple and enjoyable tasks.

Razor clams eat plankton by filter feeding in the ocean. They raise themselves to the surface of the sand, and stick their long necks out to feed. Sometimes if the water is relatively calm, and you are on a beach that has razor clams around low tide, you can see the clams "necking." This is not to be confused of course with any human practices. The clams have a bi-valve in their neck that they use to feed. Water and feed goes in one tube and out the other.

The problem with the feeding activity of the razor clam is that it invites attack from their primary predator - the dungeness crab. Dungeness crab have special pinchers that they use to grab the necks of the razor clams and pull them from the sand. Razor clams can feel vibration very well, and if a crab gives himself away, the razor clam will quickly retract its neck into the sand avoiding certain death.

Razor clams are an excellent tasting clam that make a wonderful food source. They are dug both commercially and recreationally along the West Coast. Recreational digs are infrequent on the beaches of Washington, Oregon and California, but frequent in Alaska where they have fewer people and an abundance of clams. Commercial clam diggers sell their clams to restaurants, canneries, and to crab fishermen to be used as bait for dungeness crab.

Razor clams can reproduce when they are between three and seven years old. The female clams randomly discharge eggs onto the sand surface, and the male clams randomly discharge sperm onto the sand surface as well. Fertilization occurs by complete random chance, and is very inefficient. The volume of eggs released by a female makes up for the inefficient method. A female razor clam may release as many as 100 million eggs, but the number is disputed and may be as low as 100,000 eggs.

Millions of people enjoy one or more phases of the razor clam industry. Digging, cleaning, and cooking razor clams are all relatively simple and enjoyable tasks. When all is said and done, the most enjoyable task is the eating!

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