January 18, 2012
Don't Touch! Or, if you are a Goatfish... Don't Sleep!
I have a HUGE library in my office. The majority of books are about fishes - but I have a sizable collection of books about many other of aquatic life forms. One of the creepiest, and more informative books I own is Dangerous Marine Animals, by Bruce Halstead, M.D. When my kids were little, I actually hid this book from them because it contains numerous, graphic photos of the injuries people have suffered due to misencounters with venomous and toxic marine animals.
The book includes the well-documented outcomes of encounters with sharks, barracudas, jellyfishes... but it also includes the not-so-well-known dangerous critters like corals, sea urchins, and sea snails. Yep, sea snails.
Cone snails are one of the most venomous gastropods in the sea. A puncture wound from a Cone snail may result in intense pain, numbness, tingling in the mouth, dizziness, and paralysis. On our coast, these snails are mildly toxic, in other parts of the world fatalities have been reported.... from a SNAIL sting! Invertebrates and fishes in the wild don't stand a chance against the Cone snail. Some Cones have lightning-fast barbs that shoot out and harpoon their prey. Other Cones use stealth to approach their prey.
In the video below, the Goatfish is at rest. While the narrator says the Cone is releasing chemicals, I haven't read anything to corroborate this. But clearly, the Goatfish does not respond by swimming away.
Bottom line: it's a snail-eat-fish world under the surface. My rule of thumb? When you're in the ocean, DON'T TOUCH! Especially if it's a Cone snail.