by Piter Kehoma Boll
Look at this thing:
It is so beautifully red like a strawberry that I feel my mouth salivating and an urge to bite it. But instead of a juicy sweet fruit like a strawberry, this is a hard salty seashell belonging to the species Clanculus puniceus that has the appropriate common name of strawberry top shell.
This species is found in the Indian Ocean along the eastern coast of Africa, from the Red Sea to Cape Agulhas, including nearby islands such as Madagascar and the Mascarenes. It belongs to the family Trochidae, commonly known as top shells or top snails because their shell resembles a spinning top.
The shell of the strawberry top snail measures, in the adult, at least 15 mm in diameter, reaching up to 23 mm, and has a beautiful red color, caused by uroporphyrins, that can vary from orange-red to crimson. The spiral of the shell, when seen from above, has a line formed by black dots, caused by melanin, intercalated by two or three white dots. When seen from below, there are two additional lines with this pattern that run side by side near the shell opening.
As usual among top snails, the strawberry top snail lives in intertidal and subtidal zones and feeds on algae that it scrapes from rocks using its toothed tongue (the radula). They are dioecious, i.e., there are male and female individuals, as in most sea snails, but there is no sexual dimorphism.
Due to its beauty, the shell of the strawberry top snail is highly desired by shell collectors. However, little is known about the natural history of this particular species. I wasn’t even able to find a photograph in which the snail itself is visible.
If you work with this species or at least has a photograph of a living specimen showing the snail inside the shell, please share it! We need more available information on the wonderful creatures that share this planet with us.
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More marine snails:
Friday Fellow: Ornate Limpet (on 3 May 2019)
Friday Fellow: Tulip Cone (on 29 December 2017)
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Herbert DG (1993) Revision of the Trochinae, tribe Trochini (Gastropoda: Trochidae) of southern Africa. Annals of the Natal Museum 34(2): 239–308.
Wikipedia. Trochidae. Available at < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trochidae >. Access on 29 July 2019.
Williams ST, Ito S, Wakamatsu K, Goral T, Edwards NP, Wogelius RA, Henkel T, Oliveira LFC, Maia LF, Strekopytov S, Jeffries T, Speiser DI, Marsden JT (2016) Identification of Shell Colour Pigments in Marine Snails Clanculus pharaonius and C. margaritarius (Trochoidea; Gastropoda). PLoS ONE 11(7): e0156664. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0156664
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