Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Cone Snail (Conus) By: Zachary Kaye

The Cone Snail (Conus) BY ZACHARY KAYE

Introduction: The Conus, or Cone Snail, is classified under the kingdom Animalia, the phylum of mullusca, and the class of gastropoda. Conus is a genus that contains a varied amount of sized snails, ranging from small to large. There are over 3200 species known of the genus conus. Their shell is shaped like a geometric cone, which is where they got their name from. They are all venomous, some being more then others. If you were to get stung by a small conus it would be nothing more then a bee sting. However, the larger and more venomous ones are capable of a very serious sting and have been known to even kill humans. Although they are found in different regions of water, they are most dense in tropical waters.

The snails body anatomy consists of:
1) Proboscis. The proboscis is the cone snail’s hunting tool. This harpoon is loaded with venom that is injected into their pray. The proboscis can extend longer than twice the size of the snail.
2) Siphon. The snail’s siphon is similar to a nose. It is an extendable tube that can be used like a radar and can sense animals around it. It also directs water to the gills to help with respiration.
3) Eye Stalks - Cone snails have a pair of eyes, located on either side of their mouth. It is unknown how well snails can see, however it is certain that the deeper water snails have very limited sight due to the lack of light.
4) Mouth - A cone snail has a huge extendable mouth. The mouth can extend out to eat the pray and once consumed, a muscle brings the mouth back in.
5) Foot - A long muscular foot extends to allow the snail to move along surfaces.

Form and Function: Eating Habits: Cone snails are carnivores, and are predators. They hunt and eat prey such as small fish, mollusk, marine worms, and even other cone snails. Cone Snails are very slow moving, and because of this, use their radula to catch food. Many Cone Snails wait in the sand until prey comes along, and then snatches it in a blink of an eye. It doesn’t only burrow in the sand to hunt, but also to hide and protect itself from its predators. The venom of a few larger species, is powerful enough to kill a human.

Video of Cone Snail catching prey:


Reproduction: The females eggs are fertilized internally by the males sperm. Each one of the egg capsules can contain between 500 and 700 eggs. The capsules are laid under rocks, and very few survive. The few eggs that survive to hatch do so in about 16-17 days. The larvae remain free floating for about 16 days, and then settle onto substrate. At this time they are about 1.5 mm (0.06 in) in length.

Impact on the world/humanity: The largest impact on the world that the cone snail has is the neurotoxins that it produces. They are used to make medicine that treat neuropathic pain. Less then 1% of the 500 species have been studied, and scientist believe that this amazing animal has the potential to treat Parkinson’s disease and depression.

Journal/Article Review: http://www.spacecoastmedicine.com/2009/11/cone-snail-venom-effective-remedy-for-pain.html
The summary of this article is that the neurotoxins created by the cone snail have been turned into a pain medicine called Prialt. It is approved by the FDA and is used for neuropathic pain. Some of the neurotoxins made are 1000 times more powerful then morphine. Because our digestive enzymes would break these toxins apart, they are injected directly into our spinal canal.

Bibliography: http://outlook.seacrest.org/exchweb/bin/redir.asp?URL=http://www.aquariumofpacific.org/onlinelearningcenter/full_description/textile_cone_snail/

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