“What is a penis doing sticking out of the sand?!” you might be asking. Well, that penis is not actually a penis at all. It’s a very large and unfortunately shaped clam called the Pacific geoduck (Panopea generosa), or “King of Clams”. Geoducks (pronounced “gooey-duck”) are the largest burrowing clams in the world and are found exclusively in the Puget Sound region of Washington State and a southern portion of British Columbia, Canada. As baby clams, they burrow into the sediment at depths of 10-80 feet of water (but found up to 360 feet as well) and the larger they grow, the slower they burrow. Upon reaching adult size at around 3 feet long, they stay put for the rest of their lives, feeding (and squirting!) with their siphons that stick above the sand’s surface. Geoducks are among the longest lived animals, capable of living for up to 146 years!
Often, though, their phallic lives are cut short since they are such a coveted clam for eating. There are many geoduck farms where they are raised specifically for commercial sale, and digging for geoducks is a favorite pastime of Pacific Northwesterners. These clams are capable of withdrawing their siphons down their holes, which can be three or more feet deep, so it can be a challenge to dig for them. The animal is extricated by digging a deep hole around it with a shovel or other tool, then finishing the digging by hand and lifting the geoduck out by the shell. The legal limit for collecting geoducks in the wild is three clams per person during clam season. This might not seem like much if you think in terms of smaller bivalves like butter or razor clams, but geoducks frequently weigh a whopping three or more pounds. The record confirmed weight for this King of Clams is 8.16 pounds!
Not only is the geoduck tasty to people who like clams, it’s also the mascot of Washington’s Evergreen State College! Speedy the Geoduck was adopted by the college early on in its history and spawned the Geoduck Fight Song as well as the school motto, “Omnia Extares!”, or “Let It All Hang Out!” Speedy represents Evergreen’s most prized qualities, such as non-competitiveness, versatility and flexibility, and permanence.
Speedy the Geoduck at Evergreen College’s 2014 Commencement ceremony. I took this photo when I went to my friend’s graduation.
Speedy the Geoduck was rated the “#1 worst college mascot” on many sites such as SportsPickle. The Geoducks also got rated the “#1 worst team name” from Time, and are high ranking on a multitude of other scales like weirdest mascots, most ridiculous mascots, and interesting mascots.
This is one bivalve that knows how to make a splash, whether it be in a good or a bad way, and we’re lucky to have it where I live.
1. “Geoduck.” Puget Sound Shorelines. Department of Ecology, n.d. Web. 05 Aug. 2015. http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/sea/pugetsound/species/geoduck.html
2. “Geoduck Clams Identification & Information.” Fishing & Shellfishing. Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, n.d. Web. 05 Aug. 2015. http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/geoduck/
3. “How to Dig Geoduck Clams.” Fishing & Shellfishing. Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, n.d. Web. 05 Aug. 2015. <http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/geoduck/howto_dig.html>.
4. “Geoduck.” Geoduck RSS. Geoduck.com, n.d. Web. 05 Aug. 2015.
5. Goodwin, C. Lynn, and Bruce Pease. Species Profiles. Life Histories and Environmental Requirements of Coastal Fishes and Invertebrates (Pacific Northwest). Pacific Geoduck Clam. WASHINGTON STATE DEPT OF FISHERIES BRINNON POINT WHITNEY SHELLFISH LAB, 1989.
6. “It’s Speedy the Geoduck.” Geoducks. The Evergreen State College, n.d. Web. 05 Aug. 2015. http://evergreen.edu/geoduck/home.htm