Razor clams are narrow, elongate clams named because their long, convex shape resembles an old-fashioned barber’s straight-edged razor. The shell tends to be glossy with a purple region near the curving edge. The cream-colored muscular foot protrudes approximately 5 inches from the shell when extended. Like other bivalves, a siphon is present. The hole in the shell from which the syphon protrudes, has a unique keyhole shape.
The razor clam is well adapted for living in soft tidal substrates. Because of its short siphons, it burrows just below the surface to feed. When the tide goes out, it is strong enough to burrow quickly into deeper sand. The foot of the razor clam is larger and more agile than that of other clams. To burrow, the razor clam pushes its narrow foot down deep into the substrate, then expands the foot as an anchor and pulls the body and shell deeper into the sand.
The razor clam is highly sensitive to vibrations and can sense the approach of a nearby predator. Its strong muscular foot enables it to propel itself out of its burrow to escape an attack from below or to burrow quickly if a predator is attacking from above. Clam worms and moon snails prey on razor clams.
Pacific razor clams are highly desirable and edible, collected both commercially and by recreational harvesters. Razor clams, like other shellfish, may sometimes accumulate dangerous levels of domoic acid, a marine toxin. Harvesters should be sure to check current public health recommendations before collecting razor clams. Razor clams are commonly battered and fried in butter, or made into a clam chowder.