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butter clam siphon
Butter clam seen feeding underwater
Butter Clams

About butter clams

Butter clams (Saxidomus giganteus) are found throughout Oregon's nearshore areas and larger estuaries. Butter clams are excellent burrowers and are found abundantly in shell, sandstone, and even rocky areas, however due to the ease of digging, butter clams are most often harvested in sand and mud substrates. Butter clams are most often found in large estuarine systems, such as Coos, Tillamook, and Yaquina, because of their higher salinity preference. They are known by a variety of names including Washingtons, Martha Washingtons, Beefsteak, Quahog.

Species profile

Description: Butter clams have oval and oblong shaped shells with heavy, thick valves and hinge.  Their shells have fine concentric rings.

Size/Age: Average adult size is 3-4 inches but can range up to 5 inches. Butter clams can live more then 20 years.

Life History: Sexes are separate. They are broadcast spawners so eggs are fertilized externally. Spawning generally occurs from late February through July. Eggs and larvae are dispersed by currents. Larvae settle to the substrate primarily between early spring and summer. The butter clam is a suspension feeder. It draws water into the body and filters out phytoplankton, zooplankton and detritus (organic material).

Range/Habitat: Butter clams are native to the protected bays and estuaries from the Aleutian Islands in Alaska to mid-California. They can be found in a wide variety of substrates but prefer sand, shell and gravel beaches. They live in the substrate approximately 6-12 inches down. Butter clams can be found as deep as 50 ft below the low-tide.

Common Names: Martha Washington, Washington clam, Beefsteak clam, Quahog.

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