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butter clam neck
Butter Clam Neck
Watchable Wildlife on Clam Flats

What to See

Be observant when out on the clam flats, viewers will find many things going on that can be very interesting. Here are some examples.

gaper neck


This gaper clam has two excurrent siphons (left) and one incurrent siphon (right).

Gaper necks

Look in tidepools for clam necks that are not yet retracted.

Look for oddballs

Occasionally clams will regrow their siphons if clipped by a crab. Normally they have only two.




This piddock clam has three excurrent siphons (left) and one incurrent siphon (left).

purple olive snail channeled dog whelk moon snail
Purple olive snail
(about the size of a nickel)
Channeled dog whelk
(about the size of a quarter)
Lewis' moon snail
(about the size of a softball)

Look out for snails

There are a variety of marine snails found on clam flats.

Here are a few example of who may be walking around the estuary.

Look out for "slugs"

There are a variety of nudibranchs found on clam flats. Here are a few example of who may be walking around the estuary.

white lined dorid monterey lemon dorid janolus lemon dorid
White lined dorid
Leopard dorid
Orange and white tipped nudibranch Monterey lemon dorid
crab drama

native red rock crab coupleCrab drama in the eelgrass

Look out for crab drama, here the female native red rock crab has molted and the male is attempting to walk her back to the water line, protecting her while she is in a soft and vulnerable condition.

pseudofeces pellets

Find a molt

Crab often molt in the shallow waters of clam beds. The skeletal remains of this process, known as exuvia or “molts”, are often found at low tide.

more about molting in the crab life history page



paired dungeness buried up

Buried crabs

Keep an eye out for crab, they often bury themselves if caught out of water at low tide.


scaly head sculpin

Find a fish

A number of small fish can be found in the shallow tidepools of clam flats. Juvenile rockfish, flatfish, stickleback, and many species of sculpin are commonly found in estuary tidepools.


plainfin midshipman

Fish that sing?

Plainfin Midshipman, are a member of the toadfish family, and generally not noted for their good looks. They do however, have excellent singing abilities, at least in volume. Males occupy nests in rocky intertidal areas of the estuary (often near rip-rap) where they will sing loudly to attract a mate. They are adapted to live so high up that they can even breath air. Mating songs are loud enough that they can be detected by females underwater.

Rows of photophores found near their opercal and belly, gives them the additional ability of bioluminescence. These photophores are the derivation of their common name as they reminded early taxonomists of the buttons of naval jackets.

algae bloom

Look out for algae blooms

Algae will often bloom into interesting colors.


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