The Spotted Flamingo Tongue Mollusk

Flamingo Tongue Snail in Profile
Image by laszlo-photo via Flickr

Sometimes a shell, living in the wild, will look very different than when it’s washed up empty on the beach. In the case of the Flamingo Tongue (Cyphoma gibbosum) snail, the coloring belongs to the animal while it’s alive.  The mantle, or fleshy, cape-like covering, is what you are looking at in this picture, and it contains the pretty roundish spots that are yellow-orange, outlined in a darker color.

It is not a large shell, measuring at most about 1.5 inches and you will probably only see one living if you are snorkeling or swimming since they live on sea fans and feed off of coral in shallow ocean water.

Although this looks like a beautiful shell to add to your collection, the shell itself, which is hidden from view by the mantle, is mostly white with a bit of a yellowish tint.  The outstanding characteristic of the shell is the ridge that you can see crossing the center of the shell.

Don’t be fooled into thinking you have found an amazing spotted seashell, if you see this little guy.  Collecting it will kill the animal and the shell will not have spots.  You will both lose.

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