Strawberry Conchs Blossom at Museum!
Recently, Aquarium Curator Rebecca Mensch secured a few new animals for the Museum’s living gallery. One of them immediately caught my fancy: Early this week, I spent some quality time with a couple of Strawberry Conchs, Conomurex luhuanus (Linnaeus, 1758), observing some of their behavior and taking photos. They are really cool and super active, what a great choice for the aquarium!
The Strawberry Conch resembles its distant cousins, the Florida Fighting Conch, but with a short-spired, cone-like shell. They are relatively common in a broad area of the Indo-West Pacific region, dwelling in the sand around coral reefs. Like most “true” conchs (family Strombidae), Strawberry Conchs are herbivores, using their radula to graze on seaweed or rasp microalgae from hard surfaces.
The snail uses the foot as a pole vault to leap away from potential predators, and the frontal part of the foot is modified as a “shovel” to help in burrowing through the sand. The eye is very large in relation to body size and is very complex, even when compared with those of other true conch species. The eye contains a hemispherical lens (see photo detail below), a cornea, a pupil surrounded by a pigmented iris, a vitreous body, and a cup-shaped retina comprising several layers. The eyestalks protrude from two notches in the anterior part of the shell (see below). The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum is open, with strict cleaning and sanitizing procedures in place. Come visit, ask to see the Strawberry Conchs and share my enthusiasm for these fascinating animals!