Sunday, November 30, 2008

Cone Snail Videos

I was happy to see how much attention the post on Cone Snails has gotten. I understand it is hard to picture a snail killing something, so I dug up a couple of videos of these slow but deadly predators on the hunt. It's somewhat disturbing and totally amazing to see these Cone Snails in action.

This is a very good clip from National Geographic showing the full process of a Cone Snail hunting.

And this video from Nature shows how quickly a Cone Snail can subdue a live and very active fish.

One of the reader responses to my previous Cone Snail post asked where Cone Snails can be located. I found a map from National Geographic showing just this.

It's small but you can see the regions where Cone Snails can be found highlighted in yellow. They are mostly located in tropical oceans. Florida is the only place in America that I know of where you can find Cone Snails. Still, if you think you might have found a cone snail, just remember the general rule of the ocean:
When in doubt, don't touch it.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Cone Snails: Deadly Predators

Oddly enough one of the most deadly animals in the entire ocean is a tiny snail called a cone snail. While it seems comical to even think of a snail as dangerous, let alone lethal, cone snails have some of the most sophisticated and deadly neurotoxins known to man. A cone snail sting can kill a person within minutes of injection.

While most snails simply graze on algae, cone snails are active predators. They are fully capable of catching and eating quick and agile fish. These mollusks move just as slowly as other snails, but they pack a hidden weapon. They have a long tube which conceals a deadly harpoon tipped with their powerful venom. They can fire this harpoon with lightning fast accuracy. Their prey is killed almost before even knowing it has been hit. The snail then reels the dead fish into its vacuum-like mouth and swallows it whole.

People are rarely attacked by cone-snails because they do not actively hunt humans. Only about 15 known cone snail related deaths have been reported to date. Most of these incidents occur because people pick up the beautiful shells they see on the ocean floor. When the snail is agitated, it fires its harpoon, and the person often dies within minutes. If you ever see a cone-shaped shell lying on the sand, it's best to just leave it alone.