What a pretty shell and we pick it up but dig a little deeper and be enlightened…
Cone Shells come in various colors, sizes and patterns and belong to a slow moving group of predatory snails. These snails are all venomous with some capable of killing a human being. Approximately 36 people have died from these stings in the last 90 years. A death from one of these snails usually occurs within 5 to 8 hours after being stung.
Looking at the Business end of the snail one notices two extensions, the upper being the siphon. This is used for the snail to ‘taste’ or ‘smell’ when hunting for prey. How the snail achieves this is by using chemo-receptors located inside the tube.
Once the prey has been identified nearby, the snail extends the proboscis towards the prey. This would be the lower extension in the above picture.
The radula tooth which is hollow and barbed is preloaded with venom and by means of a powerful muscle contraction is launched at the prey. A small fish would be paralyzed almost instantly.
The snail then draws the prey back towards its mouth and proceeds to eat it. Any waste such as scales and the harpoon are regurgitated.
People often see the attractive shells on the beach and pick them up but beware!
In some of the smaller species the sting may be no more than a wasp or bee sting type of experience but there are some that could have fatal consequences.
Check that the shell is empty before putting it in your pocket!