Mar 4, 2008: Introduction to the Moon Snail, part 1

Tideflat Critters

Moon Snail on wintry low tide

Lewis' Moon Snails (Euspira lewisii), the largest moon snails in the world, are named after Merriweather Lewis, who first saw them at the mouth of the Columbia River. Moon snails like low, sandy beaches. The big slimy appendage sticking out of the shell is exactly that: a mucous-covered foot. The snail uses the foot to glide through water, burrow in sand, or to immobilize clams as it feeds on them. Moon snails, like all snails, are gastropods.

Moon snail from side

Below: the moon snail's least flattering angle.

Moon snail from below

We've heard, but find it hard to believe, that moon snails are 'relished' in Norway. Hopefully the species of moon snail found in Europe is more appetizing than the Northwest's Euspira lewisii. If there's anyone out there who's ever eaten moon snail, and enjoyed it, please tell us about it.

Moon snails are a drill snail, which means that somewhere in that mucous-covered foot there's a sandpaper-like tongue that the snail uses to drill through the shells of its prey (normally clams). Before it starts drilling, the snail secretes a chemical that dissolves and softens the clam shell. Moon snails seem to really, really like butter clams, but they also eat cockles, horse clams, and even other moon snails. The main predator of the moon snail is the twenty-rayed starfish.

Discarded moon snail shells, which litter the tideflats, make great tchotchkes. Or, if you're a hermit crab, great homes.

moon snail shell

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  • Faith on

    Thank God I found your page!! I just spent a ton of time searching for into on the moon snails found on the coast of BC – very little info out there. Great pics and info, for my homeschooled kids – thanks a bunch!

  • Oyster Fan on

    Glad we could help!

  • Ariel on

    It looks like this entry is from a while ago, but I just wanted to let you know this article helped a lot with my homework assignment. Thanks :)

  • Oyster Fan on

    Dear Boris, that sounds terrible. Thanks for providing yet another reason to avoid moon snails. And if you run into Rear Admiral Beardon, could you pass on a message for us? We regret to say that homeland security intercepted and confiscated his comment.

  • Dave Johnson on

    Moon snails are like any other shellfish—you like them or you don’t. The foot is quite tough, but I own a grinder that is tougher. Me 1, snails 0.

    The meat is very dense and works well in chowder. Today I’m going to try snail sauteed in garlic and a little soy sauce. I’m sure it will be quite good.

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