Razor Clams Burrow Fast Using Quicksand; Robots Can, Too

Razor Clam

A team of scientists studying razors clams’ locomotion found that they create their own quicksand to burrow. Next step, robots.

The razor clams don’t have much muscle and they have difficulty digging even a half-inch into the ocean floor. However, when they use their quicksand technique, the clams can burrow as much as one foot per minute. The video shows a clam burrowing.

To dig, the razor clams contract their shells, causing the sand to collapse around them. The water fills in the spaces between the grains and turns it into quicksand. By repeating this procedure, the clams move down through the sand at a very fast rate.

This burrowing technique has applications in robotics. Underwater vehicles can use something similar as an anchor. The anchor could dig itself into the floor and then back out again, rather than using motors to keep the vehicle still in currents.

Image of razor clam from video

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Author: Heather Carr

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