Sometimes knowing a "mystery" creature's ID makes it seem less bizarre. This is not one of those situations.


A video of what looks like a possessed pancake has racked up nearly 600,000 views since it was posted to Facebook recently by Oregon fly-fishing guide Kate Taylor. What you're looking at is a Pacific razor clam, a bivalve mollusc in the genus Siliqua.

These meaty shellfish inhabit sandy, surf-swept beaches from the Aleutian Islands south to California – and if you've spent time meandering along North America's Pacific coast, you've probably walked right over one. Razor clams typically go unnoticed by human passersby because they're master diggers. 

The clams are filter-feeders and spend their days slurping tasty plankton out of the surrounding water. But unlike the clams we're used to seeing, their shells cannot close tightly. To avoid drying out between waves, the animals must sink about a foot (30 cm) into the wet sand. You can see this in action in Taylor's video.

That wriggling noodle on the right side of the clam is the muscular foot, a structure that both pushes sand out of the way and acts as an anchor to pull the animal to the desired destination. On the other end is one of the siphons, tube-like straws that move water over the gills ... which brings us to the momentous eruption at the end of the clip. While many commenters online have suggested the clam is expelling the remnants of a large meal, that brown eruption is a combination of water and sand. 

Retracting the siphon forces water up and out, which results in that signature squirt:

When water is removed during a squirt, more rushes in to take its place. This flow of water creates a quicksand effect that reduces drag on the shell and makes for a quicker escape!


Top header image: minustide/Flickr