When people think of snails, they generally imagine rather docile, harmless creatures. Indeed, the Northern Moon Snail poses no threat to humans whatsoever and it doesn’t exactly live a “fast-paced” life, but make no mistake… this mollusk is a ferocious, slow-motion carnivore.
The specimen seen here was photographed in the area of Menunketesuck Island in Westbrook, Connecticut, a protected coastal bird sanctuary that is part and parcel to the McKinney National Wildlife Refuge. Moon Snails thrive here, feeding on the abundant clams shallowly scattered beneath the silt-laden sea floor of Long Island Sound. The soft body of the moon snail, protected by its grey or brown shell, is actually a strong muscle capable of burrowing through the mud in search of its prey. When it locates a hapless clam, it latches onto the shell and bores a small hole to access the innards.
Northern Moon Snails only occasionally venture into intertidal areas of Long Island Sound where they can be found during low tide. More often, they live in the subtidal zones of the Sound that remain submerged at all times and lie just out of reach of beach visitors. However, you can find evidence of their presence by examining clam shells that wash up on the shore (usually those of soft-shell clams). Whenever you find one drilled through with a neat hole, it’s a good bet that the clam lost its life to the Northern Moon Snail.