After being informed by my wife of my new cone's arrival, I was anxious to get home and see the new guy in action. Bob Dayle had cautioned that conus textile and conus marmoreus were natural enemies, and I was curious to see if the reaction would be the same between the textiles, Art and Paul, and a deep-water first cousin of marmoreus, conus bandanus.
When I arrived at home and checked on the aquarium, all was calm, with none of the molluscs in the tank active. I removed the conus bandanus and measured him, a nice 83mm, and I dubbed the new resident Emilio. The lights had been on since Emilio had been introduced to his new home, so I extinguished them to see if the activity would pick up a little. In typical fashion, Eduardo Magnificus was the first to make a move. Eduardo came crawling out of the rubble, ignoring the new guy, and headed up the wall of the aquarium in search of an easy meal. He eased up to a cypraea caurica positioned near the water line, sniffed at him, and turned around and headed back for the bottom of the tank. This time he went straight toward Emilio, evidently just recognizing him as an intruder.
In faster-than-cowry-stalking speed, Eduardo marched up nose-to-nose with Emilio, extending his proboscis in a gesture that I was sure was not a "Welcome" in cone language. Emilio beat him to the punch, however, and snaked out his long white proboscis and harpooned my favorite conus magnificus. Eduardo flinched, then turned to crawl away, but only moved an inch or so. The conus bandanus withdrew back into his shell, and made no attempt at eating Eduardo. I watched as the magnificus stretched out his foot and retracted it, and moved his siphon, but he seemed to be unable to coordinate his crawling muscles. His foot would move, but he couldn't crawl. This was the exact reaction that I had seen in Mark Episcopatus after Art Textile had stung him, and I knew that it didn't bode well. Eduardo remained in the same location for the next three days, except for the occasions when I removed him to verify that he was still alive, and like Mark, after three days he was dead. It was depressing, but life in the aquarium goes on.
Nothing much happened the rest of the evening, but when I arose the next morning practically every cone in the aquarium was out hunting, with the exception of Art and Paul. A few days before, with everything settled, I had introduced two new residents to the tank, a conus tulipa and a conus striatus. Both of these new guys are piscivorous, but I thought I would just put them in the tank for a while to see how they inter- acted with the molluscivorous cones. The tulipa was the most active of all the cones I had had in my aquarium, and spent all the hours of darkness out hunting. He would "bulldoze" the cowries around the water line of the tank, and attempted to crawl down the water circulation pipe with the air bubbles in his face, but never made any attempt at eating anything in the aquarium, other than my little trigger fish. (He did finally catch the little guy.) This morning he was out crawling as usual, as were Andy and Gary Omaria and Ross Canonicus. Emilio had partially buried himself, with the tip of his siphon exposed just above the gravel.
I sat watching all the action this morning, curious how Emilio would react to all the other cones moving about. Andy Omaria would be the morning's test case. Andy ambled toward Emilio, apparently lacking the sense of danger that Eduardo had displayed. As Andy came closer, Emilio extended his proboscis (which can be extended almost twice as far as his siphon, by the way). He "felt" for the conus omaria's foot, found it, and zapped him. Andy was immediately unable to crawl, and Emilio didn't retract this time. He slowly, almost clumsily, re- positioned himself above the aperture of the conus omaria, and without extending his foot, proceeded to extract the victim from his shell. The process took almost an hour, but Andy's shell was completely empty when he was finished. Twelve hours in the tank, and Emilio had killed two of my molluscivorous cones. I was beginning to wonder why a "super-predator" like conus bandanus didn't simply wipe out the cone population in an area, instead of being so uncommon like they are in American Samoa.
After eating Andy, Emilio buried himself in the rubble, with his siphon against the front glass of the aquarium. He remained there for the next two days, and gave me the opportunity to watch his reaction as the other animals moved over him. Several times cowries crawled over the bandanus' siphon, but he never showed the slightest interest. In fact, for the entire time he has been in the aquarium, Emilio has ignored the cowries, showing interest only in the other cones. After a couple of days in this position, the bandanus decided it was time to move, and so did Paul Textile.
As Emilio dragged himself from the rubble, Paul emerged on the opposite side of the tank, obviously perturbed. He crawled directly up to Emilio, but not in a frontal attack like Eduardo had attempted. The textile extended his pink proboscis when he was still six inches from the bandanus, and approached him from the side, about an inch behind his anterior tip. The bandanus froze as the textile approached, and never moved to defend him- self as he had done with Eduardo. Paul was strictly business, and never hesitated. He stopped his advance as soon as his proboscis would reach Emilio's foot, and stung the conus bandanus the first place he touched. Emilio instantly withdrew, but Paul wasn't finished. He crawled a little closer, extended his proboscis under the lip of Emilio's shell, and appeared to harpoon him again. He repeated this five times, moving up the length of the shell toward the spire, and then turned around and marched off. Paul had obviously recognized the intruder as a dangerous enemy, and was intent on killing him, not on eating him. It wasn't quite a "David and Goliath" battle, but by volume, Emilio must be at least three times as large as the 63mm conus textile.
(Final round coming soon...)