Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

Razor shells are deep burrowers and are rarely seen alive; when disturbed they rapidly move down deeper into the sediment (2). They typically position themselves so that two short tubes known as 'siphons' protrude above the surface of the sediment, allowing the mollusc to draw in a respiratory current of water into the body via one siphon, and out via the second. Food is also extracted from this current; this species is a suspension feeder, extracting particles of organic matter from the water (4). The presence of this razor shell in the sediment can be detected by characteristic holes in the sand, similar to keyholes, which are made by the siphons (2). Maturity is reached after three years and breeding takes place during spring. The larvae live in the plankton for around a month before settling (2). The life span is thought to be around 10 years (2).
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Description

This razor shell is a common, burrowing mollusc, which has an elongated fragile and narrow shell shaped like a cut-throat razor, hence the common name (3). The two halves of the shell, known as valves, are somewhat curved; they have a smooth, whitish outer surface with reddish or purplish-brown markings and are covered by an olive-green layer of protein known as the periostracum. The inner surface of the valves is white with a purple hue. The large muscular foot is reddish-brown in colour (2).
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Distribution

Range

Found around the coasts of Britain, and from Norway to the Atlantic coasts of Spain, as well as parts of the Mediterranean (4).
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Physical Description

Diagnostic Description

Diagnosis

Solen ensis Linné, 1758. Syst. Nat. ed. 10: 672.
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Ecology

Habitat

Depth range based on 152 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 117 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 0 - 103
  Temperature range (°C): 7.116 - 13.257
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.873 - 12.040
  Salinity (PPS): 32.851 - 38.362
  Oxygen (ml/l): 5.828 - 6.605
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.031 - 0.785
  Silicate (umol/l): 0.987 - 7.673

Graphical representation

Depth range (m): 0 - 103

Temperature range (°C): 7.116 - 13.257

Nitrate (umol/L): 0.873 - 12.040

Salinity (PPS): 32.851 - 38.362

Oxygen (ml/l): 5.828 - 6.605

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.031 - 0.785

Silicate (umol/l): 0.987 - 7.673
 
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This razor shell burrows in sand or muddy sand from the extreme low water mark to depths of around 60 m (4).
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Conservation

Conservation Status

Status

Common and widespread (2).
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Threats

Not currently threatened.
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Management

Conservation

No conservation action has been targeted at this species.
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Wikipedia

Ensis ensis

Ensis ensis, or the sword razor, is a razor clam, a marine bivalve mollusc in the family Pharidae. It lives buried in the sand and is found off the coasts of northwest Europe.

Contents

Description[edit]

A shell of Ensis ensis on a beach

The two valves that make up the shell of Ensis ensis are parallel-sided, narrow and curved. The adult shell can be up to ten centimetres in length. The valves are thin and rather brittle. The edges are parallel, tapering slightly towards the posterior and are off white with transverse bands of brown. The shell is sculpted with fine co-marginal lines and the annual growth lines can be seen. The inner side of the shell is white with a purplish sheen. The periostracum is olive green and the foot is reddish.[2][3] Two identifying features are that the posterior adductor muscle is positioned some one and a half times its own length from the pallial sinus, and that the muscle that retracts the foot is posterior to the insertion point of the ligature. Ensis siliqua and Ensis arcuatus are two other rather similar species that can be found living in the same localities, but the shells of both of them are less curved than this species.[4]

Distribution[edit]

E. ensis occurs off the coasts of northwest Europe, from the Baltic Sea [4] and Norway to the Atlantic coast of Spain. It is common around the coasts of Britain.[5]

Biology[edit]

E. ensis burrows into clean or silty sand on the seabed in the neritic zone and the low intertidal zone. When covered with water this bivalve remains close to the surface but when disturbed or when the substrate is exposed it descends to half a metre below the surface. It can tunnel with great rapidity.[6] It has two short siphons that normally extend up to the surface of the sand. It draws in water through one siphon and expels it through the other. By this means it both respires and extracts food particles from the water at the same time.[2] At low tide, a keyhole-shaped depression in the sand is often the only visible sign that the bivalve is present.[6]

E. ensis becomes mature at about three years old and may live for ten. Reproduction takes place in the spring and the larvae are pelagic and form part of the zooplankton. After about a month they settle out and burrow into the substrate.[6]

Ecology[edit]

E. ensis is often found living in association with other burrowing animals including the sea potato, Echinocardium cordatum, and the bivalve molluscs Tellina fabula and Chamelea gallina.[7]

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