FLAMINGO TONGUE SNAILS: ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW


Cyphoma_gibbosum Clark Anderson - Aquaimages

FLAMINGO TONGUE SNAILS: ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW

I wrote about FLAMINGO TONGUE SNAILS Cyphoma gibbous more than two years ago. They have not changed noticeably since then but this site has – in scope, available material and audience. So I am revisiting these small marine gastropod molluscs, which are related to cowries. The live animal is brightly coloured and strikingly patterned, but that colour only exists in the ‘live’ parts – the ‘mantle’. The shell itself is usually pale and characterised by  a thick ridge round the middle. These snails live in the tropical waters of the Caribbean and the wider western Atlantic. Whether alive or dead, they are gratifyingly easy to identify.

FLAMINGO TONGUE SNAIL ON A PURPLE ROPE SPONGEFlamingo Tongue on purple rope sponge ©Melinda Riger @ GB Scuba copy

FEEDING ON A CORAL STEM

This snail is snacking on a coral stem, leaving a feeding track behind it. The structural shell ridge is clearly visible beneath the distinctively marked live tissue of these creatures.

Flamingo Tongue LASZLO ILYES Cyphoma_gibbosum_(living)_2

The flamingo tongue feeds by browsing on soft corals. Adult females attach eggs to coral which they have recently fed upon. About 10 days later, the larvae hatch. They eventually settle onto other gorgonian corals such as Sea Fans. Juveniles tend to live on the underside of coral branches, while adults are far more visible and mobile. Where the snail leaves a feeding scar, the corals can regrow the polyps, and therefore the snail’s feeding preference is generally not harmful to the coral.

Flamingo_Tongue_Snail_on_Soft_Coral_LASZLO ILYES

The principal purpose of the mantle of  tissue over the shell is as the creature’s breathing apparatus.  The tissue absorbs oxygen and releases carbon dioxide. As I have seen it described (unkindly?) “it’s basically their lungs, stretched out over their rather boring-looking shell”. 

Flamingo Tongue, Abaco (Char Albury)

This snail species, once common, is becoming rarer. The natural predators include Hogfish, Pufferfish and Spiny Lobsters, though the spotted mantle provides some defence by being rather unpalatable. Gorgonian corals contain natural toxins and instead of secreting these, the snail stores them. This supplements the defence provided by its APOSEMATIC COLORATION, the vivid colour and /or pattern warning sign to predators found in many species.

It comes as little surprise to learn that man is now considered to be the greatest menace to these little  creatures, and the reason for their significant decline in numbers. The threat comes from snorkelers and divers who mistakenly / ignorantly think that the colour of the mantle is the shell of the animal, collect up a whole bunch from the reef, and in due course are left with… “boring-looking shells” (see photos below). Don’t be a collector; be a protector…
Flamingo Tongue, Abaco (Char Albury)

These photos are of flamingo tongue shells from the Delphi Club Collection. Until I read the ‘boring-looking shell’ comment, I believed everyone thought they were rather lovely… I did, anyway. You decide!

Flamingo Tongue Snail Shell, Keith Salvesen AbacoFlamingo Tongue Snail Shell, Keith Salvesen AbacoFlamingo Tongue Snail Shell, Keith Salvesen Abaco

Finally, a couple of videos. The first is rather charmingly titled ‘FLAMINGO TONGUES DOING…. SOMETHING’. Any (printable but amusing) suggestions via the Comment box are welcome. The second punchily summarises this post in 30 seconds. Maybe that’s all that was needed!

Image Credits: Clark Anderson, Melinda Riger, Laszlo Ilyes, Charmaine Albury, RH

Doh! Reading through this after posting I can’t remove from my mind the likeness of Homer Simpson on the snail in Melissa’s photo (2). I had to  check it out and… it’s uncanny!

Homer Simpson Flamingo Tongue copy images

SMALL SHELLS FROM CASUARINA, ABACO


Abaco Shell 3b

SMALL SHELLS FROM CASUARINA, ABACO

Abaco Shell 1Abaco Shell 4Abaco Shell 2Abaco Shell 5Abaco Shell 6

The shell species below (also in the header picture) is an olive. It turns out to have potential to star in a small maritime horror movie. Capt Rick Guest, who kindly keeps an eye on my shell and other sea-related posts, writes “Interestingly, the previous occupant of the first and last shell pictured here is a major predator of the other Bivalve shells shown. The Olive shell hides under the sand by day, then emerges at night to feast upon small Bivalves, and any other available prey. One can often trace the nocturnal trails of this Olive shell in sand on calm mornings with mask and snorkel, and thrust a hand under a trails end for this fellow. When kept in an aquarium, they will consume any meat offered.” “Olive and Let Die”, maybe?Abaco Shell 3aAbaco Shell 7

CONCH SHELLS & CONCHUPISCENCE ON ABACO


Conchs at Sandy Point a1

CONCH SHELLS & CONCHUPISCENCE ON ABACO

Most conchs encountered in daily life are lying peacefully on the beach; or are artfully displayed; or are found in conch heaps (often in the vicinity of restaurants) like the ones below at Sandy Point. Conchs at Sandy Point Abaco 2Conchs at Sandy Point Abaco 4

These shells at Sandy Point are so plentiful that they form a small spit of ‘land’ into the seaConch at Sandy Point (Clare)

An attractive display of conch shells in Marsh HarbourConchs Marsh Harbour Abaco

A less formal arrangement along the jetty at Man o’ War Cay (after a storm)Conch Man 'o War Cay jetty Abaco

It’s easy to forget that these shells are more than just a garden adornment, or pretty containers for a ubiquitous Caribbean food. Under the sea, and not very far at that, are living creatures going about their daily lives.Conch ©Melinda Riger @G B ScubaConch ©Melinda Riger @ GB Scuba

And that includes reproducing. This sounds as if it might be a cumbersome process, but (like porcupines) they seem to manage. Here is a pair preparing to mate. The male behind is presumably about to… well never mind. I’ve never seen the process, so it’s a case of using imagination. Or just accepting that, whatever it is that they do, it works. [I haven’t located a video online – I’ll post one if I do]Conch preparing to mate ©Melinda Riger @ GB Scuba

You’ll find some more about Conchs in a previous post HERE, including 12 Unputdownable Conch Facts, notes on conservation matters and… a photo of Honeychile Rider, arguably the most famous conch-carrier ever. Oh, she was fictional, you say? But I always though she… How very disappointing.

And if you want to know how to clean a conch, a dude will  show you in a video on this page HERE 

Finally, check out the very informative website COMMUNITY CONCH, a charitable conservation organisation community conch logo

Photo credits: Melinda, Clare, RH

‘BEAUTY & THE BEACH': A CLOSE LOOK AT ABACO SHELLS


Abaco seashell 11

‘BEAUTY & THE BEACH': A CLOSE LOOK AT SOME ABACO SHELLS

Abaco seashell 10Abaco seashell 7bAbaco seashell 6bAbaco seashell 3bAbaco seashell 2bAbaco seashell 1bAbaco seashell 4bAbaco Shells 12bAbaco seashell 5bAnd to end with, not a shell but a somewhat unattractive head shot…Abaco seashell 9b

BEAUTY PARADE

Abaco seashell 7aAbaco seashell 6aAbaco seashell 3aAbaco seashell 4aAbaco Shells 12 aAbaco seashell 5a

UGLY BUG BALL…

Can anyone ID this? It’s not what I thought… *later* yes they can! See comments for the debateAbaco seashell 9b

Skull 2

All shells – & the spider crab carapace – collected from the beach at Casuarina

FLAMINGO TONGUE SNAILS & SHELLS: COLOURFUL GASTROPODS OF THE CARIBBEAN


FLAMINGO TONGUE SNAILS & SHELLS: COLOURFUL GASTROPODS OF THE CARIBBEAN

AN UPDATED VERSION OF THIS POST WITH NEW IMAGES AND MATERIAL (AS WELL AS A RETREAD OF SOME OF THIS POST) WAS POSTED IN NOVEMBER 2014 AND CAN BE FOUND HERE

The FLAMINGO TONGUE SNAIL Cyphoma gibbosum is a small sea snail (marine gastropod mollusc), related to cowries. The live animal is brightly coloured and strikingly patterned, but that colour is only in the ‘live’ parts – the shell itself is pale and characterised by  a thick ridge round the middle. These snails live in the tropical waters of the Caribbean and wider western Atlantic. Whether alive or dead, they are easy to identify.

This snail on the left (thanks, Wiki) is snacking on a coral stem, leaving a feeding track behind it. The structural shell ridge is clearly visible beneath the distinctively marked live tissue.

The flamingo tongue feeds by browsing on soft corals. Adult females attach eggs to coral which they have recently fed upon. About 10 days later, the larvae hatch. They eventually settle onto other gorgonian corals such as Sea Fans. Juveniles tend to live on the underside of coral branches, while adults are far more visible and mobile. Where the snail leaves a feeding scar, the corals can regrow the polyps, and therefore predation by C. gibbosum is generally not harmful to the coral.

The principal purpose of the mantle of  tissue over the shell is as the creature’s breathing apparatus.  The tissue absorbs oxygen and releases carbon dioxide. As I have seen it described (unkindly?) “it’s basically their lungs, stretched out over their rather boring-looking shell”. 

This species was once common but is becoming rarer. One significant threat comes from snorkelers and divers who mistakenly think that the colour is the shell of the animal, collect up a whole bunch, and in due course are left with… (see photos below)

These photos are of flamingo tongue shells from the Delphi Club Collection. Until I read the ‘boring-looking shell’ comment, I thought everyone thought they were rather lovely… you decide!

Finally, a couple of videos. The first is rather charmingly titled ‘FLAMINGO TONGUES DOING…. SOMETHING’. Any (printable but amusing) suggestions via the Comment box are welcome (Hi Trish!). The second punchily summarises this post. Maybe that’s all that was needed!

ABACO SHELLS: 3 MORE FROM THE DELPHI CLUB COLLECTION


ABACO SHELLS: 3 MORE FROM THE DELPHI CLUB COLLECTION

I have recently featured some of the shells from the collection amassed at Delphi –  see SHELLS 1 and SHELLS 2. They are kept in vases or bowls for display and examination. They may not all come from the immediate vicinity, but they are all, for sure, from South Abaco. It’s time for some more.

PINK TRIVIA SHELL

 

LETTERED OLIVE  SHELL

  

COMMON SPIRULA  

For further details about Spirula(e), please see the comment box where Capt Rick Guest gives a lot of fascinating info about them and related marine cast-offs. You’ll also find out which are the real prize ones to look out for…

  A vignette of RH examining shells on the balcony at Delphi 

 

TULIP SHELLS & SUNRISE TELLINS: MORE BEACHCOMBING TREASURES FROM ABACO


TULIP SHELLS & SUNRISE TELLINS: MORE SHELL TREASURES FROM ABACO

Here are two contrasting shells from the Delphi Club collection that has been haphazardly accumulated over the last 3 years or so. The first post in this shell series was about SEA URCHINS & SEA BISCUITS

TULIP SHELLS Fasciolaria tulipa

The term ‘Tulip snail’  includes 3 related species of sub-tropical gastropod worldwide, of the genus Fasciolaria. They are medium-sized predatory molluscs that breed throughout the year in warm waters. Their reproductive lives deserve some attention, if they will pardon the intrusion. 

Research by the Smithsonian Marine Station Fl. reveals that the male’s penis is to be found on the right side of its body, directly behind its head… When they mate the (larger) female stays in an upright position on the sand while the male ‘flips over’ to align the apertures of both shells, before inserting the penis into the female (RH comment: the research is not specific about precisely where the female keeps her own genitals). Once joined, snail pairs may remain locked together for up to 2 hours, even when being watched by researchers. They have plenty of stamina: mating may occur several times in one season, and individual tulip snails have been observed to mate up to 3 times in a single week. Respect!

SUNRISE TELLINS Tellina Radiata

I included these pretty shells, with their striking pink radials, in an earlier post BEACHCOMBING BIVALVES The ones shown here are larger specimens. The hinges (muscles) are very delicate, and in these shells the two halves of the shells have separated. STs are not uncommon, but these are the largest I have come across (I realised after I had taken the photos that I should have used a coin for comparison…). They grow up to about 7 cms, and  these ones were that length, or very nearly so.

I can’t assist with their sex lives I’m afraid, which may well be completely conventional, dull even. However, as I discovered when I previously researched these shells,  “in most countries it is illegal to bring back these shells from holidays”. To which I can only repeat my comment: Whoops!