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Posts Tagged ‘Poisonous Ocean Life’

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 »

Portuguese Man-of-War, Fascinating Sea Creatures!

Posted by Greg on October 12, 2011

Portuguese Man-of-War (NOAA Image/Wikimedia Commons)

The Portuguese Man-of-War, or Bluebottle as it is known in Australia, looks like a jellyfish but actually isn’t. According to Southeastern Regional Taxonomic Center (South Carolina Department of Natural Resources),“The man-of-war is not a single animal. It is actually a colony of numerous organisms called polyps (or zooids) that are so specialized that they cannot live without each other.”

Four main types of polyps make up the man-of-war. One individual polyp becomes the large gas filled float (pneumatophore) that sits horizontally on the surface of the ocean. The float can be up to 15 cm above the water and is generally translucent, tinged with pink, purple or blue. The other polyps become the feeding tentacles (gastrozooids), the defensive/prey capturing tentacles (dactylozooids) and the reproductive polyps (gonozooids). The tentacles of the man-of-war can hang down in the water 165 feet (or 50 meters).”

The Portuguese Man-of-War got its name from the sail on the float polyp that resembled a Portuguese warship sail.  The “sail” can be from 4 to 12 inches long and can extend up to 6 inches above the surface of the ocean.  Another fascinating fact about man-of-wars is that when they reproduce, some will grow sails that lean left and some will grow sails that lean right, enabling them to spread out more evenly across the ocean when the winds catch them.

Portuguese Man-of-War (Lesueur US-PD/ Wikimedia Commons)

Portuguese Man-of-Wars are commonly found floating in warm tropical waters and sub tropical areas all around the world, but they have also been seen as far north as British waters. “In the United States they can occur in coastal waters from Florida (Atlantic coast, Florida Keys, Gulf of Mexico) around to Texas. However, some have been known to drift up the Atlantic coast on warm currents, or by storms, up into the cooler Northeastern United States.”

Man-of-Wars mostly float in the open ocean, but occasionally they can be found in shallow coastal waters and can sometimes wash ashore. Avoid contact with them, even if they appear to have been on the beach for a while. They can still be highly venomous! If you are stung by a Portuguese Man-of-War, according to the Southeastern Regional Taxonomic Center (South Carolina DNR), “the latest medical research suggests carefully removing (with gloves on) any noticeable tentacles from the afflicted areas and then rinsing the area with plenty of lukewarm fresh water until the stinging sensation becomes lessened. Ice can help numb the affected area for pain relief. It has been suggested by lifesaving groups in Australia that applying alcohol may worsen the sting by making any remaining undisturbed nematocysts discharge. If the sting is severe, seek medical assistance.”

All quotes are from

Have a safe day at the beach!

Posted in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Beach Safety Tips | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Australia’s Mission Beach Wildlife *or* Platypuses Count as Beach Wildlife!

Posted by E.G.D. on September 7, 2011

Blue Ringed Octopus (photo by Jnpet from Wikimedia Commons)

Australia is very well known for its abundance of unique wildlife, and it is also well known for its varied and beautiful coastline.  Put the two together, and I fear the first thing that comes to my mind is the scary oceanic fauna “Down Under” that will kill you almost instantly if you get too close.  I admit it.  I am extremely intimidated by Australia’s blue ringed octopus and box jellyfish ( says “The box jellyfish is responsible for more deaths in Australia than snakes, sharks, and salt water crocodiles put together” and that the tiny blue ring octopus “can easily kill a human”). However, I’m really starting to warm up to the Cassowary Coast in Queensland.  This is in large part due to Australia’s Mission Beach‘s incredibly well managed and frequently updated website that includes a really fun wildlife-focused blog that updates up to three times a week.  The front page of the blog mainly features interesting birds at the moment, though at the bottom of the list you can find a cute and (GASP!) harmless snake and something entirely different from anything else anywhere… Australia’s very own platypus!  You know, I had never in my life really thought of platypuses as beach wildlife, but hey, they’re semi-aquatic!  Why wouldn’t they be happy on a beach?  They’re very specifically found on Australian fresh water beaches, so don’t go looking for them along Australia’s Mission Beach‘s ocean coast, but they are native to the Mission Beach, Australia area and can purportedly be spotted at dawn and dusk, which are their periods of greatest activity.

Platypus Swimming (photo by Maksim from Wikimedia Commons)

Isn’t that cool?  I’d love to see a platypus in real life.  The closest I’ve come is seeing a stuffed one in a museum in Scotland, and that just doesn’t do it for me.  Speaking of stuffed platypuses in Britain, though, did you know that “the first specimens to arrive in London were instantly dismissed as fraudulent“?  I can’t say as I blame those old-time Londoners.  It must have seemed like a jackalope (which is essentially a jack rabbit with antlers glued to its head by a crazed taxidermist).  I can see it now: “Well I say, whose leg do you think you’re pulling?  You sew together a beaver, an otter, and a duck and think we’re going to believe that it came to be like that naturally?  HA!”

For those who wondered, this is a quoll (photo by Leonard G. from Wikimedia Comons)

Anyhow, if you search the blog’s older posts, there is some interesting information about fruit bats, butterflies, wallabies and quolls, among other species that are awesome and native to the area.  Really, I have to say that if you couple the animal spotting potential with the incredible beach views (featured on the site’s mainpage), I can see myself willing to risk the scarier wildlife for a visit to the Cassowary Coast.  Regardless, I assure you that the Mission Beach, Australia website is quite safe (no octopuses or jellyfish there!) and worth a visit in its own right.

Happy beachgoing- E.G.D.

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Posted in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Beaches of Australia and New Zealand | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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