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The Beautiful But Deadly Marbled Cone Snail

An appropriate name for the Marbled Cone snail might be “Pretty Poison”.  It's helpful to know what this particular sea creature looks like, since if you see one in shallow water, or lying on the beach near the water's edge, you should definitely hesitate to pick it up, no matter how attractive it looks.

A Fish-Eating Snail - The Marbled Cone snail, Conus marmoreus, is a saltwater predator. It is a fish eating snail, which immediately brings up the question, “How can a snail, not noted for its speed, catch and eat a quick-moving fish?” The answer is as follows: the snail first harpoons the fish, then it injects venom into the fish, and then it eats the fish. Simply harpooning a fish wouldn't do this little snail too much good, as a fish that's any size at all could drag it all over the ocean. It's the venom that does the trick, as it usually kills the fish within a couple of seconds.

Making The Top Ten List - Now, it might not seem too bad to be stung by a little sea snail that in most cases is less than an inch long. Conus marmoreus however isn't your ordinary sea snail, nor even is it your ordinary cone snail, several species of which inject a toxin into their prey. Conus marmoreus is on the list of the 10 most venomous animals in the world! It's right up there with the Black Mamba, the King cobra, the Box Jellyfish, and the Stonefish.

Conus marmoreus has not been responsible for a great many human deaths, but it has been responsible for around 30 according to the records. People who have been stung by this snail ( not all of the stings have been fatal) have been stung either when handling a snail while exploring a deep water coral reef, where the snail typically resides, or picking a snail up in shallow water and, in at least one reported instance, putting a live snail in a pocket. Fortunately, most cone snails live in deeper water where there is an abundance of fish life, so a beach stroller isn't too apt to step on one, although it has happened.

The Treatment Given Is Most Often Emergency Treatment - Most cone snails, including Conus marmoreus, are not aggressive creatures. They aren't going to chase you across the beach, or chase you anywhere. To get stung, you have to come to them, which is more or less what happens to the fish they catch. The sting of one of these snails is usually quite painful, although in some instances the pain or other symptoms may not be immediate. The most dangerous aspect of the venom the Marbled Cone snail injects is that is can quickly cause muscle paralysis, which can either cause the heart to stop or breathing to cease. Insofar as treatment is concerned, emergency treatment is usually what is needed. The location where the sting occurs needs to be tightly bound, a procedure referred to as pressure-immobilization, in an attempt to keep the toxin from spreading. CPR may have to be administered, and the victim should be taken to a hospital Emergency Room, since he or she will likely have to be placed in intensive care.

It should be noted that the above applies mostly to Conus marmoreus. The type of treatment needed for stings from other cone snails can vary, since some are more venomous than others, It's just that, as far as the potency of the venom is concerned, the Marbled Cone snail's is by far the most deadly.

The Nicer Side Of Conus marmoreus - The shell of this little snail is definitely a collector's item, and the cleaned out shell of one of these dead snails presents no danger. The pattern on the shell is one of irregular white dots against a black background, with the white area usually predominating. On some snails the white dots take on a roughly triangular or arrowhead shape, while on others the white dots or patches are more elongated. Although most examples of Conus marmoreus have shells that are white on black, others have shells that have a white pattern against a background that is yellowish-brown or orange.


Where To Find Conus marmoreus Shells - Conus marmoreus is found primarily in the South Pacific and Indian Oceans, where most of the other species of cone snails are also found. Their habitat also extends to the Red Sea. These snails have also been observed in the coastal waters of Florida. Beachcombers collect the shells from dead snails that have washed up on the beaches of Hawaii, where they are used in necklaces. The shells are usually empty, so collecting them in this manner is not considered to be dangerous. It cannot be overemphasized however how dangerous it is to attempt to handle or pick up a live Marbled Cone snail. The little harpoon they use to sting their prey can penetrate fairly sturdy gloves. If you want a few of these little beauties to display in a glass, try looking in a curio shop, or go beach combing in Hawaii.



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