The Cone shell

                                                     The deadly Cone shells

Most people would think that to make a statement like “there are shells in Australia that can kill you” would be ludicrous but actually it would be a true statement as there are shells in Australia that can do just that, they can and have been responsible for deaths here in Australia the Geographer cone shell being the most dangerous and the same species that killed a man in 1935 after picking this species up on Hayman Island in Queensland (apparently he was a young fit healthy bloke)

The man was stung in the palm of his hand and felt no real pain the only visible evidence he had been stung was a small puncture mark, after ten minutes or so he started to complain of stiffness of the lips and after 20 minutes he had blurred vision, after one hour he was unconscious and in a deep coma, after five hours of being stung he was pronounced dead, the shell was later identified as the deadly Geographer cone shell that are fortunately fairly rare these days, this is one known death here in Australia I would have to say there would have been countless unexplained deaths earlier than 35, not to mention Aboriginals like some of the “salt water” tribes in the 60 odd thousand years they have been here in Australia also around some of the Islands to the north of Australia.

The Cone shell is found pretty around Australia (not all species) from Perth in Western Australia right up the west coast across the top end of the Northern Territory, down the east coast to about Sydney they don’t seem to like the cooler water temperatures in the southern oceans.

The deadliest of them all the Geographer cone shell is around 100 to 150mm long, it has bands of brown or gold on a white background, there are at least six other cone shell species found in the tropical waters that are venomous enough to kill man, the list below is in an order of toxicity.

1)     The Geographer cone

2)     The Cloth of gold cone

3)     The Tulip cone

4)     The Marbled cone

5)     The Court cone

6)     The Pearled cone

Venomous dart: Envenomation takes place when the victim is shot by the Cone shells harpoon like spear, this spear is made of a bony like substance, each cone shell possesses a number of darts which measure around 10mm in length, the Cone shell shoots this dart from a tube which in turn the victim receives a dose of venom sometimes the Cone shell will hold onto the dart with the victim impaled on the end other times it is released until the venom takes effect, this causes paralysis shutting down all the major muscles in the victims body.

The Cone shell is a nocturnal creature that spends its days buried in the sand they are a bottom dweller, it then emerges at night and crawls around in search of prey, some species feed on molluscs and other types of shells and others target small fish.

It is not advisable to pick the Cone shell up if spotted which would be a hard thing not to do as they are such beautiful markings on them, holding the shell at either end can end up being shot by the dart as they can swivel the dart tube in all directions, the bad news there is no antivenom for the Cone shell, if someone is unfortunate enough to be “darted” by a Cone shell then first aid is pretty much the same as a snake bite victim where a broad pressure bandage is applied, keep the victim still and seek immediate medical attention, mouth to mouth resuscitation may be required, it is possible to survive the paralysis as long as medical attention is sort immediately if not the paralysis can prove fatal! 


                                                                                                                          Above: The Textile cone

                                                                                                                          Above: The Ivory cone shell 

                                                                                                                Above: The Geographer cone shell

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