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Family Conidae

Cone Shells

Cone shells are well-known since they possess a powerful sting used to capture prey.  Many have been fatally wounded when handling live cones, especially those that feed upon mollusks and fishes.  If one must, the least dangerous method is to hold the shell at the widest point and be prepared to let go if the animal extends itself.  Never place live cones in a pants pocket, wetsuit, or bag close to the body.  Cones are prey-specific, feeding upon worms, mollusks, or small fish, those that eat worms having the weakest venom, probably comparable to a bee sting.  The sting comes from a hollow harpoon dart also known as the radula.  It is rapidly thrust into prey by the highly extensible proboscis then venom is pumped into the wound, paralyzing the animal instantaneously.  The barbed harpoon tip allows the cone to draw the entire animal into the mouth.

Detailed cone venom information here

A living cone animal has a long foot and the head is located at the narrow end of the shell.  A flap of tissue called the mantle lines the inside of the shell and is rolled to form a siphon that extends beyond the shell and draws water into the gills.  The often-banded siphon is mistaken by observers for the stinging proboscis which is normally retracted and of a single color.   Each species' soft-parts has a distinct color pattern allowing experienced divers to identify it even if the shell is totally encrusted with algae.

There are at least 500 species in the world's warm waters and are very popular with shell collectors, but living shells are well-camouflaged or buried in sand.  While living the shell is covered with a brown skin-like periostracum which is the foundation for shell development.  The periostracum in turn becomes encrusted with coralline algae in species that do not completely bury themselves.  It can be removed by soaking the empty shell in chlorine bleach overnight and scrubbing with a stainless steel wire brush.  Living shells often become eroded or chipped and permanent scars are visible.  There is a considerable degree of variation in the coloration and pattern within some species (see Conus pulicarius).  Many species also have a bumpy or coronated spire.

Note: Species are grouped here according to appearance for easier comparison.  I have elected to keep parent genus Conus instead of the current (and confusing for the layperson) splitters' trend of elevating subgenera to genus.  Here subgenera are indicated within parentheses.

Prey items

Fish

Worms

Snails

Cones

 

 

HAWAIIAN CONES WITH A DEADLY STING

 

 

   Textile Cone                             Banded Marble Cone                            Striated Cone

 

 

Conus leopardus egg capsules

 

 

Click image for information & photos

 

HAWAII

Conus (Miliariconus) abbreviatus

ABBREVIATED CONE  

 

Conus (Miliariconus) coronatus

CROWN CONE  

 

Conus (Harmoniconus) nanus

DWARF CONE  

 

Conus (Harmoniconus) paukstisi

HAWAIIAN DWARF CONE  

 

Conus (Lithoconus) sandwichensis

HAWAIIAN SUTURED CONE 

 

Conus (Pionoconus) catus

CAT CONE  

 

Conus (Virroconus) chaldaeus

CHALDEAN CONE  

 

Conus (Virroconus) ebraeus

HEBREW CONE  

 

Conus (Virgiconus) flavidus

GOLDEN-YELLOW CONE  

 

Conus (Lividoconus) lividus

OLIVE-GREEN CONE  

 

Conus (Virgiconus) frigidus

FRIGID CONE  

 

Conus (Virgiconus) moreleti

MORELET'S CONE  

Conus (Rhombiconus) distans

DISTANTLY-LINED CONE 

 

Conus (Virgiconus) spiceri

Spicer's Cone

SPICER'S CONE  

 

Conus (Calamiconus) quercinus

OAK CONE  

 

Conus (Lithoconus) leopardus

LEOPARD CONE  

Conus (Puncticulis) pulicarius

FLEA CONE  

 

Conus (Conus) bandanus

BANDED MARBLE CONE  

 

Conus (Darioconus) leviteni 

HAWAIIAN PENNIFORM CONE  

 

 

Conus (Cylinder) textile

TEXTILE CONE  

 

Conus (Cylinder) retifer

RETIFER CONE  

 

Conus (Rhizoconus) pertusus

PERFORATED CONE  

Conus (Vituliconus) planorbis

CALF or RINGED CONE  

Conus (Vituliconus) circumactus

CIRCUMACTUS CONE  

 

Conus (Strategoconus) litoglyphus

HIEROGLYPH CONE  

 

Conus (Rhizoconus) vexillum

FLAG CONE  

Conus (Rhizoconus) rattus

RAT CONE  

 

Conus (Rhizoconus) miles

SOLDIER CONE  

 

Conus (Rhombiconus) imperialis

IMPERIAL CONE  

 

Conus (Pionoconus) striatus oahuensis

HAWAIIAN STRIATED CONE  

 

Conus (Protostioconus) obscurus

DUSKY CONE  

 

Conus (Textilia) bullatus

BUBBLE CONE  

 

Conus (Hermes) nussatellus

 

NUSSATELLA CONE  

Conus (Turriconus) acutangulus

SHARP-ANGLED CONE  

 

 


INDO-PACIFIC

Conus (Conus) marmoreus

MARBLED CONE  

 


EASTERN PACIFIC

Conus (Cylinder) dalli

DALL'S CONE  

 
Conus (Californiconus) californicus

CALIFORNIA CONE