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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  • Oyster Fan on

    Hi Annie,
    Thanks for your comment…. I agree completely that appetite is the best sauce, right behind melted butter with garlic. I don’t have an answer for your question about moon cycles off the top of my head but I’ll ask around!

  • Annie on

    Greetings from Ireland, home of oysters and Guinness!

    I found your website quite by accident when I was Googling moon phases affecting shellfish kept in tanks. Like Faith, in a previous comment, we homeschool, and sometimes the kids drive me nuts with their never-ending questions! I have to say, though, I love having interesting kids with never-ending questions – I’ve learned so much from them! My kids are homeschooling me!

    Our opinion on eating Lewis’ Moon Snails is divided. Two of us say, “Gross! Never!” while the other two say, “You’d eat anything if you were desperate!” Having eaten snails in France, with the requisite butter and garlic, we want to know, wouldn’t your Moon Snails have to be “purged” for two or three days before cooking? Snails are not nature’s Pot Noodles! They are not some “add-water-and-sachet-of-soy-sauce” instant snack.

    Incidentally, if you can help me out with the moon phases affecting shellfish in tanks, I’d be most grateful. I’m sure I read somewhere that even when you remove mussels or clams or oysters or similar from their natural environment, keep them in tanks and subject them to artificial lighting, they still retain a moon-phase cycle. Can you point me to a weblink? Preferably a science site with precise details, not a gobbledygook, lunar-goddess-earth-mother page.

    Best wishes for 2011.

  • jake lin on

    Hi, I have eaten moon snails from Hood Canal, Washington. On low tides, they can be abundant.

    Either steam them and eat them with horseradish or wasabi or
    Fry the moon snails in garlic, butter and braggs amino.

    Wash them well before cooking and I recommend cooking them in their shells.

  • Oyster Fan on

    You can go to any of the state parks at low tide and have a chance at seeing a moon snail… but unfortunately the tides aren’t very good this weekend. Go to to look up the tide table. Some of the state parks to check out include Dosewallips, Potlatch, and Twano. You might be able to find tide information on their websites, too. Good luck!

  • Tim Larson on

    Were in the hood canal area can I see moon snails for myself? I am planning a trip to the area on 09/18/2010. These creatures look very interesting

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