22 September 2009

Our mystery conch identified!

The strange conch that we've been seeing on our shores has been identified!
Thanks to Chee Kong, Mei Lin and Kok Sheng, who wrote a paper about it, which is now online on Nature in Singapore.

This beautiful snail is Strombus (Dolomena) marginatus sowerbyorum. What a mouthful! But it's wonderful to know the name of this pretty snail.

The authors did a lot of detective work going through literature and specimens to figure it out. It's not easy to identify marine life.

The authors add that "Strombids are heavily harvested for food and the ornamental trade. Due to this as well as the degradation and destruction of marine habitats, many Strombus species are no longer common on our shores. The finding of a new species or the rediscovery of a rare species is always important for the continuation of local conservation efforts because it reaffirms the fact that biodiversity is still thriving in Singapore waters amid intense economic development."

Well said! Bravo and thank you for bringing to light the identity of this beautiful snail.

Some of our familiar conch snails include the Gong gong (Strombus canarium) and the Spider conch (Lambis lambis). Conch snails belong to the Family Strombidae and are often called strombids.
Among the endearing features of Strombid snails are their huge eyes (for a snail) on stalks, and the fact that they hop instead of creep slowly like other snails. While most other snails have a 'door' (called the operculum) to seal the shell opening shut, in conch snails, the operculum is knife shaped and at the tip of a powerful foot. The snail uses this like a pole vaulter, to lurch forward.

Read more about the discovery on the Nature in Singapore site of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research.

The status in Singapore of Strombus (Dolomena) marginatus sowerbyorum Visser & Man In’t Veld, 2005 (Mollusca: Gastropoda: Strombidae). C. K. Chim, M. L. Neo and K. S. Loh. Pp. 379–384. [PDF, 633 KB]

Thanks to heads up on the article from Mei Lin on her Psychedelic Nature blog.

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