Cone snails are awesome

Whilst in the Scottish Museum in Edinburgh last month, I spotted this intriguing display model:

4 – Fish-hunting cone shell, Conus Tulipa


A creature that lives in a shell in the sea and hunts fish? How would that even work? Sounds as likely as a sloth that chases down its prey.

The Scientific American 60-second science podcast came to the rescue with a report on a close cousin, the geographic cone snail (Conus geographus):

Snail’s Venom Puts Fish in Insulin Coma

A team of biologists, mainly at the University of Utah, discovered that the cone snail’s venom contains neurotoxins and insulin. The snail initially sends out a cloud of insulin that prey take in through its gills, causing the fish’s blood sugar to plummet, depriving its brain of energy, and inducing a coma. The snail then slowly crawls over to the victim and stings it, making doubly-sure lunch is not going to escape. Awesome stuff.

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