The bivalve lives buried below the surface, maintaining contact with the overlying water by means of the inhalant and exhalant siphons (Brafield & Newell, 1961; Fish & Fish, 1989). M. balthica is capable of deposit as well as suspension feeding (Brafield & Newell, 1961; Wolff, 1973; Fish & Fish, 1989). M. balthica is able to withstand low winter temperatures. In the Dutch Wadden Sea its abundance increases after cold winters (Beukema, 1979; Beukema & Essink, 1986).
The species is an important prey item for birds such as the knot (Zwarts & Blomert, 1992; Zwarts et al., 1992).