Murex melanoleucus Morch 1860

Our feature shell for this month is supplied by Emmett and James Redding with a shell(s) from the Jean Redding collection.  The beautiful Murex melanoleucus Morch 1860 was collected live on the rocks leading out to Vernado Island, Vernado Beach, Panama on January 28, 1986. Vernado Beach is/was an extraordinary collecting site.  The normal tide range is some 14 to 20 feet between high and low tides.  To achieve that vertical drop the tides at Verando go out a half mile or more.  By using sand bars and a rocky bar you can walk out to Vernado Island a mile off shore.  This pair of Murexes were collected on the rocky bar about half way up the sides of the rocks.  They were feeding on barnacles and bivalves exposed by the falling tides.  Their coloration and shapes matched the background color/shapes.  M. melanoleucus can grow up to 7 inches, but the larger ones are frequently worm eaten towards the apex.  Other than removing the animal no exterior cleaning was done, but after 20 plus years one of the operculums has been lost.

There is one hazard to collecting these alive – getting them off the rocks without tearing most of the skin off your fingertips! Those spines do a number on flesh and newspaper. And, yes – you don’t want to play catch with them!

Our thanks to Steve Braska and Anne Kennedy for their donations to the Raffle Table in September, and to Richard Kent, Steve Braska and Heather Strawbridge for donations at the October meeting.