With the common names of cone snails, cone shells or cones, conus snails are mostly tropical in distribution. They are all venomous to one degree or another. The most dangerous species hunt fish using harpoon-like teeth and a poison gland. Others hunt and eat marine worms or molluscs.
Many species have colorful patterning on the shell surface.
Live cone snails should be handled with care—or not handled at all—as they are capable of “stinging” humans with unpleasant results. The sting of small cones is no worse than a bee sting, but the sting of a few of the larger species of tropical cone snails can be serious, and has even occasionally been fatal to human beings.
There are over 600 different species of cone snails. Typically found in warm and tropical seas and oceans worldwide, and reaches its greatest diversity in the Western Indo-Pacific Region. However, some species of Conus are adapted to temperate environments, such as the Cape coast of South Africa, or the cool waters of southern California and are endemic to these areas.
The bright colors and patterns of cone snails are attractive to the eye, and therefore people sometimes pick up the live animals and hold them in their hand for a while. This is risky, because the snail often fires its harpoon in these situations. In the case of the larger species of cone snail, the harpoon is sometimes capable of penetrating the skin, even through gloves or wetsuits.
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