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Cone snails
Temporal range: Eocene–Recent
Geography cone, Conus geographus
Conus eating a fish.jpg
Conus species eating a small fish, in Guam
Scientific classification

Type species
Conus marmoreus
Linnaeus, 1758
Conus textile

Conus is a large genus of small to large predatory sea snails, marine gastropod molluscs, with the common names of cone snails, cone shells or cones.

Shaped, as the name suggests, like a cone, many species have colorful patterning on the shell surface. Conus snails are mostly tropical in distribution. Geologically speaking, the genus is known from the Eocene to the present.[2]

All Conus snails are poisonous. They hunt and eat marine worms or molluscs. The larger ones prey on small bottom-dwelling fish. Cone snails use a hypodermic-like modified radula tooth and a venom gland to attack and paralyze their prey before eating it. The tooth is sometimes likened to a dart or a harpoon. It is barbed and can be extended some distance out from the mouth of the snail, at the end of the proboscis. They can "sting" humans, and should be handled with great care or preferably not at all.

Cone snail venoms are mainly peptides. The venoms contain many different toxins that vary in their effects; some are extremely toxic. The sting of small cones is no worse than a bee sting, but the sting of some larger species can be serious, occasionally even fatal to humans.[3][4] According to Goldfrank's Toxicologic emergencies, only about 15 human deaths were caused by cone snail stings.

Cone snail venom has promise as a source of new, medically important substances.[5][6]

The shells are beautiful, and often collected. This is Conus aulicus

References[change | change source]

  1. Linnaeus C. (1758). Systema Naturae, ed. 10, 712; 1767, ed. 12, 1165.
  2. (Czech) Pek I. et al 1996. Základy zoopaleontologie. Olomouc. ISBN 80-7067-599-3
  3. Marine wounds and stings
  4. Killer cones
  5. Olivera BM, Teichert RW (2007). "Diversity of the neurotoxic Conus peptides: a model for concerted pharmacological discovery". Molecular Interventions 7 (5): 251–60. doi:10.1124/mi.7.5.7. PMID 17932414. 
  6. Roger Van Oosten (2008). "Nature's brew". Quest online.