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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  • chris on

    I ate several of these in a classic Italian recipe I think spungilli, spicy tomato sauce and olive oil, they need to be tenderized with a mallet until your neighbors call the sheriff due to all the noise, and don’t eat too many, me and my friend had the foulest flatulence you could imagine, smelled like calamari and hangover

  • polynessian on

    This site that you have provided was awesome, and more understanding. I have never knew what Moon snails were, until my son had to do a book report on it, very interesting..but i don’t think i would be one to eat moon snail..thank you so very much hope this information provided will give my son a awesome grade…

  • EXFFPM on

    Moon snails can be extracted from their shell when pulled from the sand while the large “foot” is still engorged with water and pulled entirely out of their shell by hand. Just grab the entire foot and twist and pull (it can be difficult!) or failing that, just smash the shell and cut the foot away from the guts and slice the hard shell like “trap door” (operculum) off the bottom of the foot. The snail will usually expel all of the water from the foot as it attempts to retract into it’s shell and it will shrink up to a chunk of very tough solid meat resembling a hockey puck. Once the guts and the operculum is removed, I suggest either grinding for chowder or pounding with a meat hammer until almost falling apart and them frying as you would any clam meat. Don’t take my word for it, try it….delicious!

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