Snails that can kill?!

SCUBA divers swap whispered legends about the ocean’s fastest killer, swimmers and snorkellers are on high alert for the unexpected marine assassin: the cone snail. Don’t be fooled by the prettily patterned shell, or its sedate slithering – this seemingly harmless snail has venom strong enough to take a human life in minutes.

Everybody knows that snails are slow movers, and on land they are happy to graze on plants at a leisurely pace. But the sea-dwelling cone snail has developed a taste for flesh. These meat-eating mollucs need to be able to immobilize their prey in seconds before it can swim away, so they have their very own harpoon. A tooth filled with venom five times as powerful as morphine is hurled out, and the lethal venom is injected into prey in the blink of an eye. This toxin acts so quickly that the unsuspecting fish is dead almost instantly, then the cone snail can slink over to devour its prey.

The cone snail’s poison is a deadly cocktail of chemicals for which there is no anti-venom, so divers are warned to steer clear of this slimy killer.

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Image from www.flickr.com/photos/henriquatrecentcoups/6377684143