Conus textile Linnaeus, 1758
Textile cone, 107mm

Conus textile may be the most widely recognized cone shell, although it is easy to confuse it with a number of the other species of cones that have tent-shaped markings. It is a large cone with a wide shell, and is common in some areas, although here in the Marshall Islands it is moderately rare. Although a mollusk eater, this species has been reported to have fatally stung humans. We have not seen the details of all the records, but we have seen people less familiar with the different species of Conus misidentify young specimens of Conus geographus with C. textile. So there is a chance that fatal stings reported to C. textile could have been caused by C. geographus, a well-known fish eater with a highly venomous sting. However, as this is nothing more than a guess, it would still be wise to treat C. textile as potentially highly venomous. In the Marshalls, C. textile lives primarily on lagoon reefs and pinnacles, although a few specimens have been seen wandering about the seaward reef dropoff at night.

A mollusk eater, Conus textile is known to eat members of a variety of seashell families, such as Cymatiidae, Bursidae, Trochidae, Turbinidae, and Cypraeidae. One of their favorites seems to be the basket shell, Nassarius papillosus. But Nassarius has a pretty effective escape response. In the next series of photos, a Nassarius wanders near a hunting Conus textile.

The cone smells the Nassarius prey and extends a pink tentacle that would deliver the venomous harpoon from its mouth.

When the Nassarius detects the hunting cone, it pushes out its foot and twists it around, often causing it safely bounce away and escape.

Sometimes, however, the Nassarius gets into a position where it can no longer bounce. The cone finds the foot and delivers its venomous harpoon. The photo below shows what is either a cloud of excess venom from the sting or may be mucus released by the Nassarius upon being stung.

Once the Nassarius is subdued, the cone expands its mouth into the aperture of the prey's shell, surrounding the animal. They stay locked together this way for an hour or more while the cone digests the animal right out of the shell.

The cone in the series below is attacking a small Bursa rosa.

The cone finds the aperture and extends its stinger into it to find the retracted animal.

But before it is stung, the Bursa literally shoves the cone away using the long proboscis it uses to eat worms from holes. Right after this picture was taken, the cone rapidly and violently retracted into its shell, perhaps bitten by the radular teeth at the end of the Bursa's proboscis. With the cone temporarily repulsed, the Bursa made good its escape.

Created 4 July 2009

Return to cones

Kwajalein Underwater home