SHELL OF THE MONTH JUNE 2011

Conus bullatus, Linne, 1758  is Fay’s Shell of the Month for June 2011. It is a most attractive cone, with its bright orange/red color, high gloss and distinctive shape. Do you know why the aperature is so wide in this cone? Conus bullatus is a member of group called bubble cones because of their common shape. The wide aperature is because the snail is piscivores. It eats fish and quite large ones too. Conus bullatus lies burried in the sand with just its proboscis extended. When it senses a fish in the vicinity it goes into action, launching a harpoon that paralyzes the fish. Next the snail extends its mouth and sucks in the fish whole. “This species of cone snail immobilizes its prey in a split second with lightning-strike cabal toxins,” states the Howard Hills Medical Institute on its web site. You can see Conus bullatus feeding in videos on Youtube or theconesnail.com  We recommed this web site to learn more about the eating habits of Conus bullautus and other cones. Much research has been done on the venom of Conus bullatus. “Characterization of the Conus bullatus genome and its venom-duct transcriptome” by Hu H is the main technical writing available on the web. Why would one be inerested? Because scientists are looking at conus venom for possible use in human medicine.
  We as collectors are probably more interested in the shell. Conus bullatus until recently has been a rare and valuable shell, so it comes as a surprise that Linnaeus know it in his day.  The shell is a creamy color overlaid with a cloudy orange to red series of blotches sometimes forming indistinct bands. The pattern appears blurred. Some specimens have darker dashes encircling the shell, others have none at all. The lip thickens with age.  As it does the pattern is obscured so mature specimens have no pattern near the lip. Younger ones, or those in a growth phases will have the pattern extended to the growing edge of a thin lip.  Conus bullatus is a clean shell, rarely with growth lines or erosion so its is usually available in higher grades. The range is sporadic through Indo-Pacific including Hawaii where specimens are especially colorful. Our specimen, donated by Richard Kent, is from off Balut Island, Mindanao, Philippines and was taken by tangle net at a depth of 100m.  It is 56mm in size, near gem in condition, fullly adult, and was collected in 2010. If stored in darkness it will maintain its color but bright light will cause fading. Retail value for a specimen this size and quality is in the $25-$40 range.

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