While all scaphopods burrow into soft sediments, some species may not dig deeply enough to completely cover the apical shell, which protrudes slightly from the seafloor surface. This behavior occurs naturally in at least some of the larger dentaliids, although it is also an artifact of laboratory observation that led to textbook overgeneralizations about the group over the years. In contrast, some gadilids have been reported to burrow quickly and go much deeper into the seabed, as far as 16 in (40 cm) at rates of 0.40 in/sec (1 cm/sec).

Scaphopods test the respiratory currents entering the mantle cavity with sensory receptors located around the mantle edge. If the current is fouled, the animal usually makes an escape response of deeper burrowing or withdrawal of the foot into the shell.

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