Strange Planet: The Northwest’s Geoduck
Friend of IT Marissa Bea writes to us about a strange aquatic animal found along the Pacific Northwest coast. While it looks more like something straight out of The Empire Strikes Back, the funny-looking geoduck (pronounced “gooey duck”) is a sought-after treat and even gains media attention (Dirty Jobs’s Mike Rowe worked on a geoduck farm in 2006, and Top Chef cheftestants cooked up geoduck in Season 3). Here’s what Marissa has to say about this Northwest clam.
Being from the Pacific Northwest, I have a strange love affair with the species of clam known as a geoduck.
The quick and dirty: the geoduck is an oversize clam, with shell sizes ranging from 7 to 9 inches in diameter. But the amazing feature of this bivalve is not the shell size but the length of the odd siphon (or nose, or tongue, or what have you) that protrudes from it. There have been specimens found that are up to 6 feet in length, however most are not nearly that long.
Geoducks have one of the longest life spans in the animal world, coming in close to tortoises with an average life expectancy of 146 years. They have few natural predators and can reproduce like rabbits. The female geoduck can produce 5 billion eggs in her lifetime (that’s almost an entire new planet of people).
This creature is native to the northwest coast of the U.S. and Canada and gets its name from the Nisqually word for “dig deep.” It is still possible to go hunting for them along the beaches. You know you have happened upon a geoduck when you step in the sand and water squirts out at you. Dig a few inches and they are easy to spot. This unique animal looks like a freak of nature, but really it’s nature at its best, with an almost infallible design that has been working for millions of years.
But if you pick one up, please put it back. They enjoy the beach more than your kitchen.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Smithsonian Magazine caught up with Top Chef Season 3 winner Hung Huynh, who showed them how to prepare geoduck. Click here for the video.
What strange species live in your neck of the woods? Tell us about it!
Photo: Jordan Husney via Flickr