The Tampa Bay Top Snail
One most remarkable shallow-water species from Southwest Florida is the Tampa Bay Top Snail, Calliostoma tampaense (Conrad, 1846). Recently, I photographed one of our resident top snails, collected by Amy Tripp in Collier County. (Under a Florida State Special Activities License, museum staff and associates normally collect a limited supply of live mollusks for our live tanks, which are superbly maintained by staff marine biologist Rebecca Mensch.) The image of the live animal on the right shows, among other features, the snail's head, with tentacles, eyes and the cylindrical snout with mouth at the end. The snout is equipped with a characteristic pair of jaws. The jaws are made of chitin, a substance similar to the keratin in our fingernails. The jaws help the animal hold its food for chewing by the specialized teeth called the radula. This feeding set-up comes handy during the Top Snails' meals, which usually consist of small colonial organisms called hydroids.
The Tampa Bay Top Snail, Callisotoma tampaense. Photo on right shows a live animal crawling on the glass wall of one of the museum's live tanks; the large white structure is the snail's foot. Photos by José H. Leal.