Tuesday 27 March 2012

Flamingo Tongue Snail

Image: laszlo-photo via Flickr
We saw the Gorgonian and said hello to their little friends. This time, we learn that those magnificent corals don't have it all their own way.

Image: Nick Hobgood via Flickr
Cyphoma gibbosum is the Flamingo Tongue Snail. I've never seen a flamingo's tongue so I couldn't comment. Although I for one would be worried if my tongue was all spotty like that.

Image: mentalblock_DMD via Flickr
Reaching scarcely more than 2.5 cm (an inch) long, it's the colours that make this snail so eye-catching. In fact, the actual shell is smooth, shiny and plain, the patterns come from a mantle that covers the shell. That's pretty strange for most snails, but the norm for Cowries and Cowry Allies. The Flamingo Tongue Snail is in the Cowry Allies family, also known as False Cowries. It all sounds like Irish Mafia to me.

Image: tab2space via Flickr
The mantle can be moved aside when the Flamingo Tongue Snail feels threatened.

Image: laszlo-photo via Flickr
Brown feeding scar in the wake of the snail
They eat corals.

Image: mentalblock_DMD via Flickr
Slowly gliding across the surface, they leave a trail of destruction as they consume the living polyps. Flamingo Tongue Snails even come from the west Atlantic, including the Gorgonian heartland in the Caribbean. The damage they're capable of is quite shocking.

Image: laszlo-photo via Flickr
Coral's skeleton exposed by snails
They might even lay their eggs in that terrible scar. Tiny larvae hatch just over a week later and float as plankton for a while. Then they'll drop to the floor and find some more coral to eat.

Image: mentalblock_DMD via Flickr
The indignity!

Image: mentalblock_DMD via Flickr
Pretty though!


Anonymous said...

Their mantle and shell looks too perfect to be real! If I were sceptic about your posts, I would say that these snails were just a CG render!

Joseph JG said...

I know what you mean, they really glow! I wish I had the funds to make this many CG renders. I'd probably spend it on something else, though!

TexWisGirl said...

wow, gorgeous! even if they're painful!

Joseph JG said...

Just like love!

Unknown said...

The Flamingo Tongue Snail must have other food sources too. I found a live one in a tidal pool near the Maryland/Virginia border. (Where the water is far too cold for any coral reefs.)

I first collected this creature as an amazing shell, but after it moved I returned it to the ocean, from whence it came.

Joseph JG said...

Intriguing! Kudos to you for setting it free!

Unknown said...

If you know what this is geniuos hour this is my thing im doing