IMAGES: Mollusks With Attitude

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Science  24 Feb 2006:
Vol. 311, Issue 5764, pp. 1079
DOI: 10.1126/science.311.5764.1079e

One of the newest painkillers on the market, ziconitide, comes from the sting of a snail—not the ones that demolish your cucumbers but their marine cousins, the cone snails of the genus Conus. The rapacious creatures subdue fish and other animals with their poison-tipped mouthparts. To help taxonomists tidy up this complicated group, Trevor Anderson and Alan Kohn of the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle, Washington, launched this catalog of the more than 3000 known Conus species. Mollusk mavens can also peruse photos and drawings of more than 600 type specimens, the original samples researchers used to delineate a species or other taxonomic group. Pioneering classifier Carolus Linnaeus consulted the Conus marmoreus specimen above when he named the genus in 1758. A dozen or so video clips show the predatory snails ambushing and gobbling their victims. Anderson and Kohn plan to add species accounts with range maps and other data.

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