Common Razor Clam (Ensis directus Conrad, 1843)

Common Razor Clam
Ensis directus Conrad, 1843

Common Razor Clam:
Long-Footed, Cut-Throat Clam

By Patricia B. Mitchell.

When alive these Razor Clams burrow vertically in sandbars. They can accomplish this digging with surprising speed, and can go as deep as 16 yards, though two or three feet is the typical depth of a Razor Clam's burrow. The Common Razor Clam, the Dwarf Razor Clam, the Little Green Razor Clam, and the other members of this family of bivalves are sometimes called Jackknife Clams in the United States. In South Africa, Razor Clams are called “stickbait,” and in Australia they are known as “finger oysters.” The overall name, Razor Clam, is appropriate, for these bivalve shells resemble the old-fashioned, straight-edge (“cut-throat”) razor.

The Common Razor Clam shell, Ensis directus, is a rather fragile bivalve which grows as long as ten inches, though 5-7 inches is more typical. The shell is long and narrow with blunt ends, and a slight curve in its shape. The surface looks as if it has yellowish-green algae growing on it, but that covering is actually produced by the mollusk and is called the periostracum. The shell itself is white, often with pale lavender horizontal bands.

The hinge of Razor Clam shells is at the front end. The bivalve has an external ligament, and each shell has a long posterior tooth and two vertical cardinal teeth. These structures are very small and easy to overlook.

A Razor Clam swims by extending its long foot and then folding it back against the shell, and then suddenly straightening the foot out again. This steel spring-like action shoots the creature forward a distance of 3-4 feet.

Fishermen often use Razor Clams for bait, and people like their flavor, too. (Try 'em fried.)

Common Razor Clams are found on sand flats, from the low tide line to shallow water up to 30 feet deep. Their range runs from Labrador to Florida, and Europe.


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