Sea Creature of the Week!

Sep 26 2011

Flamingo Tongue Snail

Scientific Name: Cyphoma gibbosum

Family: Ovulidae

Home: These little guys can be spotted hanging out in the tropical shallow reefs of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Their Atlantic habitat stretches from North Carolina all the way to Northern Brazil.

Physical Characteristics: These mesmerizing sea creatures grow to be around 2 inches long. Their smooth shells are either white or light orange in color with a vertical cream colored band down its center. When alive, a bright orange-yellow mantle tissue with black markings encompass its shell. Usually, the only time they retract this layer is when they are being attacked.

Food: These beautiful reef dwellers feed on the living tissues of the soft coral (mainly Gorgonian coral) that they live on.

Fun Facts:

• The youngsters of this snail clan tend to stay in the same coral colony hiding out on the underside of coral branches while their seniors are more visible and mobile.

• The Flaming Tongue Snail’s mantle serves the same function as gils on a fish:  allowing the snail to ‘breath’ by taking in oxygen and expelling carbon dioxide from its body.

• Not too long ago the reefs of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge were heavily populated with our little sea snail friends. Unfortunately, in recent years their population has decreased dramatically mainly because divers and snorkelers are removing them from their habitats without realizing that the brightly colored mantle is live tissue and not the color of their shells! (#notsofunfact)

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