Razor shell

Razor shell

Razor shell ©Tom Hibbert

Razor shell

Scientific name: Ensis spp.
Their long narrow shells are a common sight on our shores, especially after storms, but the animals themselves live buried in the sand.

Species information


Length: up to 20cm Lifespan: At least 10 years

Conservation status


When to see

January to December


Razor shells or razor clams are very recognisable, with their long, narrow clam shells. They are a burrowing species and live buried in the sand around the low tide mark and on the seabed out to around 60m deep. They dig themselves into the sand using their strong muscular "foot". Razor clams filter feed on plankton and detritus and quite often, the 2 small siphons are all that is visible. After storms, huge numbers of razor clam shells often wash up on beaches. In Scotland, they are called spoots - named after the jet of water they shoot out when burrowing at low tide.

How to identify

There are 3 very similar species of razor shell found in UK seas, although as a group they are unmistakeable. They have 2 long, thin shells, brownish in colour, with pale worn patches near the hinge.


Found on sandy shores all round our coasts.

Did you know?

Razor shells are so-named because they resemble the old-fashioned 'cut-throat' razors that barbers used to favour (some still do today, of course).

How people can help

If collecting razor clams for food, only take as many as you need and only take those over 10cm long - this allows immature animals the chance to grow and reproduce before harvesting. If buying them to eat, choose hand gathered clams rather than those caught using electric fishing methods. Molluscs provide a vital link in the food chain for many of our rarer species.