The shell of a newly-discovered ‘laser clam,’ killed Thursday by Clete Horn on Blacktip Island’s Eye Patch Beach. (photo courtesy of James St. John)
A newly-discovered species of clams, able to shoot bursts of laser energy several feet, injured multiple beachgoers on Blacktip Island’s Eye Patch Beach Thursday, island authorities said.
“Kids were out there digging in the sand, like they always do, when a clam zapped little Shelley Bottoms’ smack on the forehead,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “A couple other kids got hit, then two adults who were pulling them out of harm’s way.
“I’ve never seen, or heard of, anything like it,” Marquette said. “Those clams have about a six-foot range. There’s no way to tell how widespread they are, but we have that whole stretch of beach roped off for safety. Hopefully we can contain them and they won’t spread to other beaches.”
Marine science experts say the clams likely evolved in response to environmental factors.
“Clete Horn managed to whack one with a shovel, so I have a dead one to examine,” Tiperon University-Blacktip marine biology professor Ernesto Mojarra said. “It’s essentially a razor clam that’s developed the ability to focus the sun’s energy. Near as I can tell, it’s a defensive adaptation that’s triggered by perceived threats.
“The mutation is almost certainly a result of landfill runoff leaching through the beach sand,” Mojarra said. “The island dump is just inland from there, and there’ve been mutated fish on that stretch of reef for years. This was really just a matter of time.”
Island officials are taking the danger seriously.
“Closing the beach and posting warning signs is a no brainer, but losing that beach is a hit below the waterline for our tourism,” mayor Jack Cobia said. “If need be, we’ll soak that beach in diesel fuel and light it on fire so we can open it up again.
“Meantime, we’ve got Stoney MacAdam and Rocky Shore out there with welding goggles, gloves and camp mirrors,” Cobia said. “When one of those clams shoots a laser, the mirrors’ll bounce it right back and toast it. And if that doesn’t kill it, Clete Horn’ll club it with his shovel.”
Other residents favored preserving the clams.
“We certainly don’t want any kiddos getting their eyes put out or losing toes, so we appreciate them from a distance,” Chrissy Graysby said. “They’re beautiful after dark. We took the little ones to the beach last night, and the clams were out fighting for territory, with their different-colored lasers flashing. From a distance, it looked like a miniature Star Wars.”
Others hailed the clams as a new food source.
“Sure, you gotta move careful around them, and use long sticks to stay out of range, but they’re tasty little things,” Angela Fisher said. “They’re like regular razor clams, only better. The little lasers partially cook the meat, which really brings out the flavor. I’m selling Jack Cobia on the idea of farm raising them to sell to local restaurants.”