Friday 16 January 2015

Mole Cowry

Image: TANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋)
Talparia talpa
The Evil Eye...


Image: Chaloklum Diving
And it's shut again, Phew!

Image: bathyporeia
This bizarre creature is a snail called the Mole Cowry, also known by the far more appetising name, the Chocolate-banded Cowry. Can't you just imagine that smooth shell as crisp, crunchy chocolate surrounding soft, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate? Probably throw some caramel in there, too.

These shells can reach up to 10 cm (4 in) long, so it's a good amount of chocolate. Mole Cowries also occupy a huge range, being found from east Africa to India, through to Australia and on to Hawaii.

Image: mathieustewart
Mole Cowries are extremely variable. The shell can be almost yellow in colour and almost lack any stripes at all. The rest of the animal may be black with lots of spots, grey with lots of spots or just completely black with no spots.

One thing they all share, aside from all those weird finger things sticking out all over the place for whatever reason... seriously, I'm sure Lenny Kravitz had hair just like this at some point in his hairstyle career.

But aside from that, it's the incredibly smooth shell.

Image: Chaloklum Diving
You see, snails build their shells by secreting calcium carbonate from a structure known as the mantle. In most snails, the mantle is either partially or entirely covered by the shell. But not in cowries!

In cowries the mantle is huge, spills out of the shell and extends to such an extent that it can enclose most or even all of the shell!

It means the Mole Cowry can lower its mantle for the silky smooth chocolate stripes look, or raise it up for the glove-of-a-thousand-fingers look. It all depends on the dinner party.


Crunchy said...

Delicious! The mantle kind of reminds me of gumdrops, and in that first picture the shell looks like candy corn ore, from which sugary candy corn is mined and formed into kernel-shaped ingots.

But alas, it's simply a snail. A horrifying, shapeless, unknowable snail. Its shell contains not confection, but secrets.

By the way, what is the purpose of the ribbing on the... aperture(?) of the shell? Is that the term for that? The snail-hole, what the snail part comes out of it.

TexWisGirl said...

very cool! and pretty when it is 'caramelized'. :)

Joseph JG said...

@Crunchy: It looks like a lot of things! I think "snail" is quite far down the list.

I checked out some other cowries and it looks like they all have them. I guess it's some kind of structural thing that helps them cling onto their mantle and keep it all in the right place since it isn't inside the shell all the time. Perhaps without the ribbing it could get all bunched up on one end somehow? *shrug*

@TexWisGirl: Oh, it looks delicious doesn't it? Shame it would be a bit of jaw breaker if you tried to eat it!