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Posts Tagged ‘cone shells’

Rayed Cone Snails ~ Findings and Lucky Finds

Posted by Jody on February 6, 2012

The Rayed Cone snail (Conus radiatus) is a delightful find, but only if you find the empty seashell.  If you find a live one, you would be well advised to leave this marine snail alone!  A member of the  Conidae family of venomous marine gastropod mollusks, the rayed cone snail is found in the waters of the Central Indo-Pacific seas.  They vary in length from a little over an inch to near 8 1/4 inches.

The Marine Biological Laboratory publication, “Of Mollusks and Men,”  describes the fierce cone snails this way: “When the snails are close enough to their prey, most species shoot out a tiny harpoon that instantly paralyzes the prey with venom. The snail moves in, opens its flexible snout, and pulls its meal into its stomach. Cone snails come in about 500 varieties and are found mainly in the shallow waters of coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific Oceans. Of the 60 or so fish-eating cone snails, which have the most potent venom, at least two have a sting that can be fatal to humans.”

Rayed Cones (©Jody Diehl)

The Marine Biological Laboratory, located on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, is “an international center for research, education, and training in biology, biomedicine, and ecology.”  Scientists there are using the venom of cone snails as a tool in the investigation of blood disorders. In “Of Mollusks and Men“, the author explains, “Hidden within the fleshy body of the beautiful snail lies a potent venom that the carnivorous creature uses to help capture its prey. It turns out that this same venom is becoming an increasingly useful tool for several areas of biomedical research, including hematology-the study of blood.” I highly recommend reading this short article. It really is quite interesting!

Rayed Cone (©Jody Diehl)

I didn’t find my rayed cone seashells beachcombing on the countless beaches of the Philippines.  I didn’t collect them on the alluring shores of Papua New Guinea. Nor did I discover them on the white coral sands of Fiji. Nowhere quite so exotic, actually. I found my fabulous assortment of rayed cone seashells in the local thrift store! One man’s trash really is another man’s treasure! I snagged a 4″ Styrofoam ball covered with 50 gorgeous rayed cones!  Someone had taken the trouble of using a hot glue gun to cement their beautiful beach treasures to the gold painted ball.  I’m in the process of removing the rayed cone shells and cleaning off the glue. I don’t know yet what I’ll do with all of them. For now, I’m certainly enjoying bragging rights!

Have a great day beach treasure hunting, wherever you may be!

*You might also be interested in reading “Cone Snails: Beautiful Shells but Dangerous Animals.”*


Posted in Beach Treasures - Beachcombing, Seashells | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Cone Snails: Beautiful Shells but Dangerous Animals

Posted by Greg on October 27, 2011

Cone snail seashells are an exciting discovery when you’re beachcombing. They are beautiful, and they are some of the rarer finds. When doing the research before writing this article, I found some very interesting facts about cone snails.

Cone Snail Variety (Photo by Pet/Wikimedia Commons)

A large variety of cone snail species can be found in the Indo-West Pacific region, but cone snails live in all tropical and sub-tropical seas.  Cone snails tend to live under rocks in coral reefs or in tidal waters. They will often bury themselves in the sand, leaving only their siphon tube exposed. When prey passes by, the cone snail senses it through the siphon. Then the snail will shoot a tethered harpoon, called a proboscis, into its prey and inject the venom. The prey becomes immobile almost immediately and is then devoured  by the cone snail.

Geographic Cone Snail (Photo by Kerry Matz, National Institute of General Medical Services/Wikipedia)

All cone snail stings are toxic, which is a very good reason to exercise caution when you are collecting their shells.  The geographic cone snail (Conus geographus), pictured to the left, is one of the larger and more dangerous cone snails.  According to National Geographic: “The geographic cone is the most venomous of the 500 known cone snail species, and several human deaths have been attributed to them. Their venom, a complex concoction of hundreds of different toxins, is delivered via a harpoonlike tooth propelled from an extendable proboscis. There is no antivenin for a [geographic] cone snail sting, and treatment is limited to merely keeping victims alive until the toxins wear off.” Other lethal stings have been attributed to the textile cone snail (Conus textile).

An exotic example of a rarer and less toxic cone snail variety is the glory-of-the-seas cone snail. Once thought to be very rare, their shells sold to collectors for as much as one thousand dollars each, and they have been highly sought after since they were first described by J. H. Chemnitz in 1777. According to Encyclopedia Britannica Online, “the glory-of-the-seas cone (C. gloriamaris) is 10 to 13 cm (4 to 5 inches) long and coloured golden brown, with a fine net pattern. Throughout most of the 19th and 20th centuries, it was known from fewer than 100 specimens, making it the most valuable shell in the world. In 1969 divers discovered the animal’s habitat in the sandy seafloor near the Philippines and Indonesia.”  They may now be acquired for more reasonable prices. (Photos that I found are copyrighted. If you’re curious, you can follow this link.)

Rayed Cones

For more fascinating  facts and lots of of details on the “Conidae” (scientific name), visit, a very interesting site run by the University of Utah.

We hope you find many cone snail seashells (without the snails in them) on your next visit to the beach!

*Posted February 5, 2012: Rayed Cone Snails: Findings and Lucky Finds*

Posted in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Beach Treasures - Beachcombing, Seashells | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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