Sea Butterflies


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The endlessly colorful Coquina clam (Donax variabilis) lives along the southern Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts. Since the two halves are often found still attached after death, it earned the common name Sea Butterfly. This small, saltwater bivalve (no larger than an inch) lives under the sand in the littoral (or swash) zone and is considered a keystone species since so many others rely on it as a food source. The Shark Eye Moon Snail, for instance, drills into the clam, injects digestive juices, and then slurps out the mush (note the holes in some of the shells in the above photo). Willets, on the other hand, gobble coquinas whole, letting their gullet grind the shells, before regurgitating the undigested pieces in chromatic clumps.

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Categories: Nature Notes

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