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Instant Chowder: Thousands of Hidden Clams Emerge Like Magic

Forget chowder, this is the most satisfying way to consume clams. The magic-act of acid proportions was filmed on North Carolina’s Topsail Island, where thousands of coquina clams (genus Donax) emerge en mass to do what animals do best: feed and breed.

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The tiny bivalves, typically just an inch long, can be found most anywhere sand meets surf. Because they burrow close to the shore break, they’re swathed in food and oxygen as each wave comes in. “At first, I thought they were dead,” says YouTuber Paul-E, who filmed the clip back in 2012. “But then a full wave cycle exposed the Coquinas’ rabid feeding behavior. As the Coquina sensed the incoming wave, they popped up out of the sand to filter-feed on the small plants and animals that enrich the fresh Atlantic waters.”

It’s not uncommon to see coquina clams pop up for a snack, but the sheer density in the video suggests this was a spawning event. The animals are broadcast spawners, meaning that when it’s time to reproduce, they congregate to release their gametes into the surrounding water. It’s a sperm-meets-egg free for all, and a closely packed colony gives the little swimmers a fighting chance.

Because coquinas feed on phytoplankton, bacteria, and other small particles, they’re a great indicator of a healthy environment. As a rule of thumb, the presence of huge clam beds like this means there are ample nutrients in the area – something that scientists can use to keep tabs on the greater ecosystem.

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IMAGES: Paul-E/YouTube

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