The aptly-named flame shell is a species of small bivalve mollusc, found almost exclusively in the west coast of Scotland. One of the most striking and important qualities of the flame shell is that it can build habitat. The bright orange tentacles are spectacular, but it is the byssus threads hidden beneath it which make this creature so special. The flame shell grows these threads from its byssal aperture and uses them to attach itself to the seabed (often coarse sands). The threads are similar to those strong wiry hairs you sometimes find gluing a common mussel into the crevice of a rock.
Each flame shell builds a nest of these threads and when abundant these 'nests' can join to form a carpet over shell-sand. This can then provide a substratum for kelps, which would not otherwise be able to get a toe-hold on the seabed.
Amazingly the flame shell can swim - if disturbed - using jets of water expelled by 'clapping' its shells together and a rowing motion of its tentacles.
Latin name: Limaria hians
Habitat: the flame shell adheres to coarse sands, gravel and broken shells from low water to depths of approximately 100m.
Diet: as a filter feeder, the flame shellfeeds on passing food using its contractile tentacles
Size: the shell can grow up to 4cm in width
For more information about this fascinating species see: