Conus gloriamaris (glory-of-the-seas cone snail) 4
Conus gloriamaris Chemnitz, 1777 - glory-of-the-seas cone snail shell, apical view (~2.5 cm across), modern (latest Holocene).
The gastropods (snails & slugs) are a group of molluscs that occupy marine, freshwater, and terrestrial environments. Most gastropods have a calcareous external shell (the snails). Some lack a shell completely, or have reduced internal shells (the slugs & sea slugs & pteropods). Most members of the Gastropoda are marine. Most marine snails are herbivores (algae grazers) or predators/carnivores.
The conid gastropods (cone shells) are fascinating marine snails for a couple reasons - they have attractively-shaped, colorful shells and they are killers. The conids are predatory, as are many other marine snails, but they take down their prey in an unusual fashion. The radula of most snails is a mineralized or heavily sclerotized mass of small teeth that scrapes across a substrate during feeding. Conid snails have a toxoglossate radula - one that has been evolutionarily modified into tiny, unattached, toxin-bearing, harpoon-like darts (see photo - science.naturkundemuseum-bw.de/files/images/niederhofer_2...) that can be fired at prey. Each dart is an individual tooth. The nickname "killer snails" is well deserved (even people have been killed). Some species have incredibly powerful toxins, while in other species the toxin has little effect on humans.
The conid shell shown above is one of the most famous rare seashells in history - Conus gloriamaris, the glory-of-the-seas cone. Conus gloriamaris (a.k.a. Conus (Regiconus) gloriamaris; a.k.a. Cylindrus gloriamaris; a.k.a. Conus (Cylindrus) gloriamaris; a.k.a. Cylindrus (Regiconus) gloriamaris) is a modern, tropical marine gastropod. The hard shell, or conch, has a distinctively elongated, gently tapering shape and a more sharply tapered top. This species’ shell surface coloration consists of a medium to dark brown colored “tent” pattern on a pale creamy yellow background (many conid gastropod shells have broadly similar tent patterns). Individual tents vary in size.
Conus gloriamaris was first named & described by Johann Chemnitz in 1777. Shell collectors treasured specimens of this species, which remained very rare from the time of its original description up to the late 1960s. Conus gloriamaris is not an abundant species, but shells are now available in the retail market.
This is an apical view of the shell, showing dextral coiling ("right-handed coiling"). Dextrality is an almost universal trait in conchiferous gatropods. Only rarely are counter-clockwise coiled shells found (= sinistral coiling/left-handed coiling).
Classification: Animalia, Mollusca, Gastropoda, Neogastropoda, Conoidea, Conidae
Natural distribution: intertidal to <100 meters depth, western Pacific Basin.