It is common for people to be awestruck or even confused when they see a photo of a geoduck. The species is quite entertaining to look at and might bring on a few laughs, yet the geoduck is an intriguing creature with neat skills and strange, yet effective behaviors.
While its physical features may be disturbing to some, the geoduck (pronounced “gooey duck”), is an interesting species that more people should know about. This clam may not resemble an oyster or a scallop, but they are all from the same mollusk family. Geoduck is actually a delicacy in many countries and is worth a pretty penny.
Their story comes with rich history, fascinating facts, and obscurity...so keep on reading!
Location and Geoduck Physical Features
Currently, you can find the species, geoduck, living as happy as a clam (literally) in Puget Sound, which is located in the Pacific Northwest. This area is where the largest geoducks thrive, although other species of the creature are known to live around Argentina, New Zealand, and Japan. In Alaska, British Columbia, and Washington, the geoduck is a huge part of the commercial fishing industry, where there are hundreds of millions inhabiting these areas (Smithsonian).
The geoduck is one goofy-looking species. It is considered the world’s largest burrowing clam, so some of its physical features aid in its daily activities and defense mechanisms.
An article in Smithsonian Magazine describes the geoduck’s features in such detail, it had to be included in this article:
Its long, leathery neck can stretch to the length of a baseball bat or recoil to a wrinkled nub. The neck resembles an aardvark's snout, an elephant's trunk, or a monstrous prehistoric earthworm emerging from a fist-size shell, among other things.
Compared to the giant clam that has a massive shell, the geoduck has a very small shell (typically 6 to 8 inches), and its body can stretch to over three feet long. The average weight is about seven pounds, although some have been reported to be up to 14 pounds!
Again, the geoduck isn’t the most attractive, but it's not always the looks that matter; let’s give the guy a break.
Geoduck Survival and Defenses
One thing that makes the geoduck so interesting is the way it uses its body to eat and defend itself.
Their long, double-barreled necks are referred to as siphons. They utilize their siphon to eat phytoplankton, which are the microscopic creatures geoducks get their nutrients from; geoducks are considered filter-feeders. They draw the phytoplankton down one side of the siphon, while water is filtered and expelled through the other side.
Geoducks dig into the ocean floor or mud beds with their tiny feet and remain relatively sedentary. When a predator approaches, they do not need to escape and hide—they simply retract its siphon, like a turtle withdraws its head (Smithsonian).
Once Geoduck dig themselves into the ground, they do not move and stay in the same place for the rest of their lives. This process has not been captured on film to this date. But a very similar clam digs itself into the ground and showcases what that process looks like. Video is of a Pacific Northwest Razor Clam and it is similar to how young geoduck will dig themselves into their final home.
Predators of the geoduck include:
- Moon snails
- Sea stars
- Flat fishes
- Spiny dogfish
- Starry flounder
- Sea otters
Juveniles are especially susceptible to predators; even their siphons are at risk.
As far as mating and reproduction go...
According to the experts with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife:
Pacific geoducks reach sexual maturity between 2 and 5 years of age. During the late spring and early summer, they release their gametes into the water column where fertilization takes place. Females can produce up to 20 million eggs per spawning and may spawn multiple times in one year.
This explains why there are such a plethora of geoducks in the Pacific Northwest!
Geoduck Industry and Popularity
The trading of geoduck is a 50 million dollar industry, at least, with the majority of orders going to Asia. While the coronavirus hit the seafood industry fairly hard, and China and Japan are major areas of import for geoduck, there is hope that the market will bounce back to normal. Washington’s commercial fishermen and women and their seafood businesses have been devastated over the past year, mostly because of tariffs and loss of sales.
In British Columbia—
More than 90 percent of geoducks harvested in B.C. are exported and sold to Chinese markets where the demand is huge, apparently due to its aphrodisiac properties. Sold for anywhere between $20-$30 per pound prior to the pandemic, the price has now dropped by 30 percent (Victoria News).
As the virus dissipates and tariffs lift, fisherman and women along with business owners are eager to get back
Geoduck Fun Facts
- The oldest live geoduck on record was 168 years.
- Geoduck’s value is so high, there is proof of gangsters trading them for narcotics.
- During the first year of life, the clams are smaller than a dime.
- The Chinese call the geoduck the "elephant trunk clam".
- SCUBA divers utilize high-pressure water to "dig" out the geoduck.
Overall, geoducks are fascinating creatures that seem to be misunderstood, yet are gaining in popularity. There are culinary experiences all over the world involving geoduck as a dish and individuals order them to cook at home—or even eat completely raw.
Speaking of eating, there is good news…
Fathom Seafood now sells live geoduck along with fresh Dungeness crab! Customers can purchase them in a box of one, two, or three and receive the same convenient shipping option as with the Dungeness crab: receive your Fathom Seafood box within 24 hours of ordering. Stay up-to-date with Fathom’s blogs to learn more about the species geoduck, as well as learn creative recipes to make.
Get on the geoduck train and see what it’s all about!
Make sure to follow Fathom Seafood on Instagram @Fathomseafood