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Weird Gramma here with “WeirdFins,” all about strange stuff in the sea, and brought to you by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Today’s weird thing is the Pacific geoduck, which isn’t a duck, and it isn’t gooey. It’s a humongous Pacific Coast clam whose name comes from the word “gwe-duk” in the language of the Native American Nisqually Tribe; it means “dig deep.” Some settler who couldn’t spell wrote it down as “G-E-O-D-U-C-K” and the misspelling stuck.
Now, this dude is the biggest burrowing clam in the world. It grows to about 3 feet and over 7 pounds, ’though fishermen report taking some 6-footers weighing more than 16 pounds—that’s as much your Thanksgiving turkey! And geoducks are some of the longest-living of all animals, reaching at least 168 years!
But it’s their shape and their deep digging that make them really weird. Most of a geoduck sticks outside the little dinky shell as a very long neck, with two holes at the end like an elephant’s trunk. This neck pokes out of the geoduck burrow to siphon phytoplankton—tiny marine plants—for meals. And geoducks are wedged so tightly in the deep burrows that otters, fish, and other predators just can’t dislodge them. Except for humans. Some are harvested by divers with special tools, some in special aquaculture farms, and some are harvested on beaches when the tide goes out. Geoduck harvesting’s a lot of fun to watch because most people just can’t pry the stubborn critters out.
Do geoducks taste good? You bet—at least once you get their tough skin off. And people in Washington State are so fond of the things that the Evergreen State College in Oympia adopted the geoduck as it's official mascot!' You can see geoducks on the National Marine Fisheries Service WeirdFins link at www.nmfs.noaa.gov.
Speedy Geoduck, mascot of the Evergreen State College in Olympia Washington.
Photo: Evergreen State College.