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Baltic Tellin

size:

up to 4 centimeters

color:

yellow, pink or white

age

12 to 16 years

food:

phytoplankton

enemies:

crabs, flatfish, shorebirds

reproduction:

sexual

  • Dut: Nonnetje
  • Lat: Macoma balthica
  • Eng: Baltic tellin
  • Ger: Nordische Tellmuschel (Baltische Tellmuschel, Baltische Plattmuschel)
  • Dan: Østersømusling
Baltic tellins, foto fitis, sytske dijksen

Baltic tellin

The Baltic tellin lives dug into muddy or sandy sea bottoms of the tidal flats and coastal waters. Only its suction tubes extend beyond the the surface. These tubes are often nibbled upon by flatfish. The older they get, the deeper they dig themselves in. Baltic tellin shells are commonly found on the beach. They are often very colorful.

On Texel


The Baltic tellin used to be very common on the tidal flats surrounding Texel. However since 2005, it has grown rarer. Biologists think that this is related to the Wadden Sea warming up.

  • On Texel

    The Baltic tellin used to be very common on the tidal flats surrounding Texel. However since 2005, it has grown rarer. Biologists think that this is related to the Wadden Sea warming up.

  • Baltic tellins are declining

    In the Wadden Sea, the Baltic tellin is decreasing in number. The animal is suffering from the warming up of the Wadden Sea. There never used to be any shrimp during the period that many young Baltic tellins were on the tidal flats or still swimming around. They were still in the deeper channels. Nowadays, shrimp return to the tidal flats earlier in the year and consume many of the young defenseless Baltic tellins.

  • Distribution and habitat
    Baltic tellin digging, foto fitis, sytske dijksen

    Baltic tellins are found from the Northern Arctic Ocean coasts to both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Its presence in the Northern Arctic Ocean says something about the temperature differences the shellfish can handle.

  • Fastfood for birds and fish
    Baltic clam, Ecomare

    The fact that Baltic tellins can survive in the Arctic Sea says something about the range in temperature that this shellfish can handle. As opposed to many other kinds of shellfish, such as the cockle, the Baltic tellin can easily survive frost. Therefore, the Baltic tellin is a reliable source of food for the birds which have the knack for tracking them down. Knots and male bar-tailed godwits are examples of such experts. However, dunlins, oystercatchers and redshanks also scour the mudflats for these (and other) shellfish. In deeper water, eiders and velvet and common scoters prey upon the Baltic tellin.

    Baltic tellins eat algae lying on the tidal surface. They suck them up with a kind of underwater vacuum cleaner, the incurrent siphon. Plaice and other flatfish like to nibble on these siphons. The siphon can grow back on but it means living closer to the surface in order to get its food. That is not very safe since many species of shorebirds like to eat Baltic tellins.

  • Developmpent of the Baltic tellin
    Development of a Baltic tellin , NIOZ (www.nioz.nl)

    Baltic tellins reproduce in the spring. The males and females spray their sperm and egg cells, respectively, into the water. In this way, fertilization occurs externally. The cells then start to split. The small larva first lives as a zooplankton. After a week, it develops wing-like features whereby it is able to swim around and catch plankton. After 2 to 3 weeks, the 'wings' disappear and the animal develops a foot and a shell. It is at this stage that it sinks to the bottom and burrows into the safety of the sea floor.

  • Baltic tellins are declining
    Baltic tellin digging, foto fitis, sytske dijksen

    In the Wadden Sea, the Baltic tellin is decreasing in number. The animal is suffering from the warming up of the Wadden Sea. There never used to be any shrimp during the period that many young Baltic tellins were on the tidal flats or still swimming around. They were still in the deeper channels. Nowadays, shrimp return to the tidal flats earlier in the year and consume many of the young defenseless Baltic tellins.