NatGeo :: Geographic Cone Snail (Conus geographus)

Geographic Cone Snails, Geographic Cone Snail Pictures, Geographic Cone Snail Facts – National Geographic.

Last night, my dad was watching something on the news about the Cone Snail and its venom. Being the nerd that I am, I figured, “Hey. I wonder what makes those little things so toxic. I could blog about that.”

– Scientific Classification –

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Mollusca
  • Class: Gastropoda
  • Superfamily: Conoidea
  • Family: Conidae
  • Subfamily: Coninae
  • Genus: Conus
  • Species: C. geographus

A very important factor of the venom of this roughly 6 inch long snail is the potency. If it had a lesser effect, the prey would swim away and die elsewhere, taxing the snail with the cost of making the venom and getting no reward. An instant paralyzing effect is key. The venom itself is comprised of hundreds of different toxins. The delivery method is a harpoonlike tooth on the snail’s extendable proboscis.

Several humans have falled victim to the cone snail’s complex cocktail. If you every have the misfortune of being “harpooned” by this small creature, your best hope is fighting to stay alive until the toxins wear off. No anti-venom exists.

Within the venom of the cone snail are proteins that could very well pave the way to a new class of analgesics (pain killers). Specific human pain receptors are targeted by some of these proteins. They can be up to 10,000 times more potent than morphine without the same addictive results and side effects.