Mar 4, 2008: Introduction to the Moon Snail, part 1

Posted by Adam James on December 05, 2014 25 Comments
Moon Snail on wintry low tide

Lewis' Moon Snails (Euspira lewisii), the largest moon snails in the world, are named after Merriweather Lewis, who first saw them at the mouth of the Columbia River. Moon snails like low, sandy beaches. The big slimy appendage sticking out of the shell is exactly that: a mucous-covered foot. The snail uses the foot to glide through water, burrow in sand, or to immobilize clams as it feeds on them. Moon snails, like all snails, are gastropods.

Moon snail from side

Below: the moon snail's least flattering angle.

Moon snail from below

We've heard, but find it hard to believe, that moon snails are 'relished' in Norway. Hopefully the species of moon snail found in Europe is more appetizing than the Northwest's Euspira lewisii. If there's anyone out there who's ever eaten moon snail, and enjoyed it, please tell us about it.

Moon snails are a drill snail, which means that somewhere in that mucous-covered foot there's a sandpaper-like tongue that the snail uses to drill through the shells of its prey (normally clams). Before it starts drilling, the snail secretes a chemical that dissolves and softens the clam shell. Moon snails seem to really, really like butter clams, but they also eat cockles, horse clams, and even other moon snails. The main predator of the moon snail is the twenty-rayed starfish.

Discarded moon snail shells, which litter the tideflats, make great tchotchkes. Or, if you're a hermit crab, great homes.

moon snail shell

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Comments (25 Comments)

Posted by Boris the Cosmonaut on December 05, 2014

“We’ve heard, but find it hard to believe, that moon snails are ‘relished’ in Norway …. If there’s anyone out there who’s ever eaten moon snail, and enjoyed it, please tell us about it.”

Relished in Norway, and outer spaceskii, too! I am Russian Cosmonaut, launched into orbit with moon snails to eat.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Three times around the earth, staring up the moon snail’s a** for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Every day. No pat of butter. No jam. No fancy bread or toast. Just snail: Snail snail snail snail snail.

If we not eat them, they bore hole through our snazzy Russki space-helmets.

The Amerigans, they eat leopard. And cheetah. In space.

We eat moon snails, and is why we lost the spaceskii race.

Resignedly,
Boris
The Cosmonaut

Posted by Oyster Fan on December 05, 2014

Oyster shucker Roberto has put ground up moon snail in a clam chowder, and that seems like the safest way to eat the snail. The foot is apparently very rubbery… you probably couldn’t put enough butter and garlic on a moon snail steak to make it edible.

Posted by Rico Alpine Society on December 05, 2014

We totally dig your blog.

This type of nature education will go a long way toward people’s understanding of the oyster and the preservation of its ecosystem!

Great idea and a great way to utlize your talent for writing. Keep it going!

Posted by Justin on December 05, 2014

I was just curious, have you ever eaten a moon snail??? If so, what did you think? If not, why not?

Posted by Faith on December 05, 2014

Thank God I found your page!! I just spent a ton of time searching for into on the moon snails found on the coast of BC – very little info out there. Great pics and info, for my homeschooled kids – thanks a bunch!

Posted by Oyster Fan on December 05, 2014

Glad we could help!

Posted by Ariel on December 05, 2014

It looks like this entry is from a while ago, but I just wanted to let you know this article helped a lot with my homework assignment. Thanks :)

Posted by Oyster Fan on December 05, 2014

Dear Boris, that sounds terrible. Thanks for providing yet another reason to avoid moon snails. And if you run into Rear Admiral Beardon, could you pass on a message for us? We regret to say that homeland security intercepted and confiscated his comment.

Posted by Dave Johnson on December 05, 2014

Moon snails are like any other shellfish—you like them or you don’t. The foot is quite tough, but I own a grinder that is tougher. Me 1, snails 0.

The meat is very dense and works well in chowder. Today I’m going to try snail sauteed in garlic and a little soy sauce. I’m sure it will be quite good.

Posted by hhhhhhh on December 05, 2014

wat the f***

Posted by scott & trish on December 05, 2014

by the way, LOL Boris

Posted by scott & trish on December 05, 2014

We found these in the hood canal, part of the puget sound. we couldn’t find anyone who knew if they were edible, but we tried them anyway. We just put them on the grill over the campfire. there was a mussely part that was good, kind of like calamari. the rest just tasted like guts.

Posted by Meet the Newest Interns at the Aquarium « Woods Hole Science Aquarium on December 05, 2014

[…] more closely related to spiders…go figure.) Emma’s favorite touch-tank activity is cuddling moon snails. My favorite touch tank activity is coloring on the “Draw what you sea” board. Just made that […]

Posted by Oyster Fan on December 05, 2014

You’re welcome Faith! Let me know if you or your kids have any questions, and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Posted by Oyster Fan on December 05, 2014

Hi Annie,
Thanks for your comment…. I agree completely that appetite is the best sauce, right behind melted butter with garlic. I don’t have an answer for your question about moon cycles off the top of my head but I’ll ask around!

Posted by Annie on December 05, 2014

Greetings from Ireland, home of oysters and Guinness!

I found your website quite by accident when I was Googling moon phases affecting shellfish kept in tanks. Like Faith, in a previous comment, we homeschool, and sometimes the kids drive me nuts with their never-ending questions! I have to say, though, I love having interesting kids with never-ending questions – I’ve learned so much from them! My kids are homeschooling me!

Our opinion on eating Lewis’ Moon Snails is divided. Two of us say, “Gross! Never!” while the other two say, “You’d eat anything if you were desperate!” Having eaten snails in France, with the requisite butter and garlic, we want to know, wouldn’t your Moon Snails have to be “purged” for two or three days before cooking? Snails are not nature’s Pot Noodles! They are not some “add-water-and-sachet-of-soy-sauce” instant snack.

Incidentally, if you can help me out with the moon phases affecting shellfish in tanks, I’d be most grateful. I’m sure I read somewhere that even when you remove mussels or clams or oysters or similar from their natural environment, keep them in tanks and subject them to artificial lighting, they still retain a moon-phase cycle. Can you point me to a weblink? Preferably a science site with precise details, not a gobbledygook, lunar-goddess-earth-mother page.

Best wishes for 2011.

Posted by jake lin on December 05, 2014

Hi, I have eaten moon snails from Hood Canal, Washington. On low tides, they can be abundant.

Either steam them and eat them with horseradish or wasabi or
Fry the moon snails in garlic, butter and braggs amino.

Wash them well before cooking and I recommend cooking them in their shells.

Posted by Oyster Fan on December 05, 2014

You can go to any of the state parks at low tide and have a chance at seeing a moon snail… but unfortunately the tides aren’t very good this weekend. Go to www.saltwatertides.com to look up the tide table. Some of the state parks to check out include Dosewallips, Potlatch, and Twano. You might be able to find tide information on their websites, too. Good luck!

Posted by Tim Larson on December 05, 2014

Were in the hood canal area can I see moon snails for myself? I am planning a trip to the area on 09/18/2010. These creatures look very interesting

Posted by Professional Oyster Pickers Development Day on December 05, 2014

[…] of course, we found lots of moon snails. Sometimes when you pick up a moon snail it clams up, squeezing all the water out of its foot and […]

Posted by chris on December 05, 2014

I ate several of these in a classic Italian recipe I think spungilli, spicy tomato sauce and olive oil, they need to be tenderized with a mallet until your neighbors call the sheriff due to all the noise, and don’t eat too many, me and my friend had the foulest flatulence you could imagine, smelled like calamari and hangover

Posted by polynessian on December 05, 2014

This site that you have provided was awesome, and more understanding. I have never knew what Moon snails were, until my son had to do a book report on it, very interesting..but i don’t think i would be one to eat moon snail..thank you so very much hope this information provided will give my son a awesome grade…

Posted by EXFFPM on December 05, 2014

Moon snails can be extracted from their shell when pulled from the sand while the large “foot” is still engorged with water and pulled entirely out of their shell by hand. Just grab the entire foot and twist and pull (it can be difficult!) or failing that, just smash the shell and cut the foot away from the guts and slice the hard shell like “trap door” (operculum) off the bottom of the foot. The snail will usually expel all of the water from the foot as it attempts to retract into it’s shell and it will shrink up to a chunk of very tough solid meat resembling a hockey puck. Once the guts and the operculum is removed, I suggest either grinding for chowder or pounding with a meat hammer until almost falling apart and them frying as you would any clam meat. Don’t take my word for it, try it….delicious!

Posted by Spirals « Walking Around on December 05, 2014

[…] to add this link to an oyster grower.  Who can’t love the Hama Hama river? Possibly related posts: […]

Posted by Hunting for Moon Snails on December 05, 2014

[…] you find moon snails hanging out on the surface of the beach. Sometimes they’re half-buried in the sand, but still […]

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