|Image: Ria Tan|
Even Gastropods like slugs and snails have a few tentacles, sometimes with eyes on top. And when you look into those beady, little peepers they're like: who said that? because they all need glasses or miniature telescopes or something to see anything.
|Image: Patrick Randall|
File Shells are a family of over 100 species of clam in the Limidae family. They're found all over the world in marine waters, from the shallows to the deeps.
We've seen one before. The famous Disco Clam or Flame Scallop who startles the eye with a flash of electric blue along the lip of its deep red mantle. But there are many more, and what they share in common is not a flash of electric blue, but tentacles.
|Image: Ria Tan|
File Shells live on the ground, often hidden in rocky crevices where they can peacefully open their shell to filter out food and oxygen from the water. If they grow displeased of the area, like if a Disco Clam moves in next door and hosts loud parties all night or someone like me comes along and keeps on pointing at their tentacles, File Clams can make a reasonably swift getaway.
They can sort of swim! Or crawl? Opening and closing their shell pushes them forward with a squirt of water while their tentacles keep them propped upright. They end up looking like one of those fluffy caterpillars! The tentacles are also sticky and readily fall off and wriggle around to distract predators while the rest of the clam escapes. Tentacles are heroic like that.
Some File Shells would really prefer not to go gallivanting around the sea. They'd much rather stay in one place, so much so that they build a kind of nest around themselves. It's made out of a material called byssus. The File Shell secretes this stuff as sticky threads but they soon harden so the clam can maintain a firm foothold on the rocky ground.
How is that not an orange mouth, orange lips, orange tongue and orange beard?
That's one File Shell safe in its nest. But what happens if you get two of them close together. What about 100? 100 MILLION?
We've all heard of coral reefs. But what about clam reefs? In 2012 an enormous colony of some 100 million Flame Shells (Limaria hians) was discovered off the coast of the Isle of Skye in north-west Scotland. Their nests of byssus had grown to become a thick, velvety carpet that proved to be the perfect home for algae, worms, crabs and all sorts of other invertebrates.