Monday, 13 August 2012

Killer cone snail

I'm probably tempting fate by posting this three days before I jet off to Rarotonga for a snorkeling holiday, but I just read a fascinating feature in the National Geographic on Dangerous and Deadly Sea Creatures, which include the beautiful and benign-looking textile cone snail.   

Conus textilus © De Agostini/Getty Images
You would never guess to look at it, but it is one of the most venomous creatures on Earth. In fact, according to Wikipedia, it was even used as a murder weapon in an episode of Hawaii Five-O! You see, like all cone snail species, it is equipped with a battery of toxic harpoon-like teeth propelled from an extendable proboscis. These can fire in any direction, even backwards, and easily penetrate gloves or wetsuits.

When it comes to the poison department, these shellfish mean business. Another name for particularly pretty geography cone of the Indo-Pacific is the "cigarette shell". And not because it's white and brown. Get yourself harpooned by this little four-incher, and you'll only live long enough to smoke a cigarette. Given that there's not even an antidote, I'd probably want something a bit stronger than a cigarette! 

Conus geographus © Didier Descouens
The secret to staying safe is apparently to not pick them up (or piss off the wrong Hawaiian!) So I'll be quashing my magpie instinct when I'm out on the reef, and enjoy these beauties from a safe distance.

Here are some more killer cones...

From top to bottom: striated cone, vexillium cone and marble cone 

No comments:

Post a Comment