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Sand gaper


up to 15 centimeters


gray to creamy white


phytoplankton and organic waste


crabs, flatfish, shorebirds



  • Dut: Strandgaper
  • Lat: Mya arenaria
  • Eng: Sand gaper (soft clam)
  • Ger: Gemeine Sandklaffmuschel
  • Fren: Clam, Mye
  • Dan: Sandmusling
Sand gaper, Ecomare

Sand gaper

Sand gapers are large shellfish. The large shell valves, which you sometimes find on the beach, don't close entirely. They gape a bit. That is why this animal is called a sand gaper. Originally, they came from America. The Vikings brought this animal from North America to Europe. That may not seem so strange. However, the Vikings lived before Columbus. The presence of sand gapers in Europe indicates that the Vikings had contact with America. This means that Columbus was not the first to travel to America.

  • Habitat

    Sand gapers live in coastal areas down to water depths of around 20 meters. This shellfish is commonly found in the North Sea, Wadden Sea and the delta waters.

  • Clam chowder

    The sand gaper is edible. It forms a traditional dish on the eastern coast of the USA. Melville talks about clam chowder in 'Moby Dick; it is a thick soup containing this shellfish. Because the species lives deep in the bottom, collecting sand gapers entails much digging, and therefore a lot of damage to nature.

    Perhaps the sand gapers brought by the Vikings were in an egg stage or young shellfish. However, it's also possible that the Vikings ate sand gapers and had them on board as food. In what situation they arrived is not clear.