Temporal range: Eocene–Recent
|Geography cone, Conus geographus|
|Conus species eating a small fish, in Guam|
Shaped, as the name suggests, like a cone, many species have colorful patterning on the shell surface. Conus snails are mostly tropical in distribution. Geologically speaking, the genus is known from the Eocene to the present.
All Conus snails are poisonous. They hunt and eat marine worms or molluscs. The larger ones prey on small bottom-dwelling fish. Cone snails use a hypodermic-like modified radula tooth and a venom gland to attack and paralyze their prey before eating it. The tooth is sometimes likened to a dart or a harpoon. It is barbed and can be extended some distance out from the mouth of the snail, at the end of the proboscis. They can "sting" humans, and should be handled with great care or preferably not at all.
Cone snail venoms are mainly peptides. The venoms contain many different toxins that vary in their effects; some are extremely toxic. The sting of small cones is no worse than a bee sting, but the sting of some larger species can be serious, occasionally even fatal to humans. Cone snail venom may be a source of new, medically important substances.
- Linnaeus C. (1758). Systema Naturae, ed. 10, 712; 1767, ed. 12, 1165.
- (in Czech) Pek I. et al 1996. Základy zoopaleontologie. Olomouc. ISBN 80-7067-599-3
- Marine wounds and stings
- Olivera BM, Teichert RW (2007). "Diversity of the neurotoxic Conus peptides: a model for concerted pharmacological discovery". Molecular Interventions. 7 (5): 251–60. doi:10.1124/mi.7.5.7. PMID 17932414.
- Roger Van Oosten (2008). "Nature's brew". Quest online.