CONE WARS - Round 9 FINAL

From: Don Barclay
To:
Sent: Friday, 21 May 1999 8:43
Subject: Cone Wars Round 9 (Final)

Hi Conch-L'ers,

After Paul Textile had made his calculated attack on Emilio Bandanus, he seemed satisfied, and headed toward the opposite side of the aquarium. I picked up my camera and was trying to get the thing to focus on Paul as he was exiting the scene when, through the viewfinder, I watched a different proboscis extend from the rubble and harpoon Paul in the side of the foot! Paul flinched, as all the cones have when they are stung, but continued on to the other side of the aquarium and stopped with his siphon against the glass. Art came crawl- ing from the spot where he had ambushed Paul, and went over to investigate his victim. He didn't seemed particularly interested in Paul any longer, and after a ten minute stroll, buried himself in the rubble again, this time with the tip of his siphon exposed.

Paul remained motionless against the aquarium glass for about an hour, and it was beginning to look like conus textile venom is deadly to another conus textile. Paul proved otherwise, though, and after a while he made another round of the aquarium. He ignored Emilio this time, then buried himself near the front glass. He also left the tip of his siphon exposed, and when one of the fish moved a rock or I tapped on the side of the tank, he would extend his proboscis and "feel" for any potential prey moving about!

I was just about convinced that Emilio was on his way to bandanus heaven when he began to crawl forward, and then buried himself in the rubble. He continued forward until his siphon was also against the front glass of the aquarium, only a couple of inches from the spot where his nemesis, Paul, was buried. All was calm for some time after that, and as it appeared that things had settled down for the evening, I shut off the lights and went to bed.

The next day things looked essentially as I had left them. There were no stray shells on the bottom of the aquarium, and I could clearly see Paul and Emilio against the glass. I could also see where Art was hiding, as his siphon or proboscis would occasionally protrude from the rubble. He had settled back into what must be his normal ambush position, barely under the surface of the aquarium floor. As I watched the two conus textiles extend their proboscides in response to any movement in the tank, I noticed that Art's was quite a bit darker than Paul's, which was only pale pink. Diet, or lack thereof, possibly? While I pondered the color difference, an oblivious cypraea caurica stumbled around the corner, headed straight for Paul Textile's hiding place.

As the caurica approached, Paul extended his proboscis to full length, whipping it around in an attempt to locate his potential breakfast. The cowry never seemed to detect the cone in front of him, even though Paul was certainly aware of the cowry's presence. The caurica continued for- ward until Paul's proboscis was raking across the front of his shell, and then he froze. Did you ever wonder whether a cowry can crawl backwards? This one did. And he didn't just raise up and turn, but his foot undulated in reverse motion, and he moved directly backward about an inch! Paul never seemed to figure out where the cowry went, and maintained his ambush position without giving chase. After the caurica had backed up, he turned and climbed up on the glass, making an arc above Paul's hiding spot, and then resuming his rounds on the gravel once he was clear of the danger zone. Paul went without breakfast.

Nothing else of note happened that morning, and all was calm when I darkened the living room that evening. It didn't take long for the conus tulipa to sense that "nightfall" had come, and within a few minutes he had resumed his nightly hunting. He started out by climbing the glass, but in a short while had worked his way down to the bottom per- imeter of the tank, obviously on course to crawl directly over Emilio Bandanus. I reached for my camera and waited.

As the tulipa continued toward Emilio, the bandanus sensed his approach, and began to extend his pro- boscis. The tulipa was crawling on the glass just above Emilio when he struck. A quick sting, and the conus tulipa fell from the glass, toppling onto his back. He landed almost directly on Emilio's dorsum, and the conus bandanus spent the next thirty minutes clumsily attempting to reposition himself to finish off the tulipa. During this time the conus tulipa exhibited the same symptoms that the other cones had shown after being stung: he could move his siphon in and out, and could extend or retract his foot, but was unable to crawl or get any grip on the aquarium glass.

Emilio did finally get himself and his victim oriented suitably, then harpooned the tulipa a second time for good measure. The tulipa did not flinch this time. Emilio then wrapped his "mouth" around a section of the tulipa's foot, beginning near the posterior end, and then slowly stretched it down over the anterior part of the foot. As the tulipa withdrew into it's shell, Emilio went in with it. For two hours the bandanus slowly extracted his victim, and you could even see the colors of the tissue being ingested through the semi-transparent tube that the bandanus used for feeding. For about an hour of that time, Emilio also had his siphon inserted into the tulipa shell. Could he tell by "smell" how the extraction was progressing?

After Emilio had completely removed the conus tulipa from it's shell, he cast it aside and worked on getting himself and his new meal back into his shell. The tulipa wasn't terribly large, but the thin shell holds a lot of animal! I had guessed that the bandanus would settle down and hide for a day or so until he could completely retract into his shell, but Emilio didn't. It hadn't been too long since he had eaten Andy Omaria, so he wasn't empty and starving, but within about twenty minutes of finishing off the tulipa he had man- aged to get his gut and foot both back into his shell. Emilio, now fat and happy, buried his nose in the gravel and all was quiet in the aquarium once again.

The aquarium remained quiet for the next two days. I could still see a proboscis or siphon tip emerge from the gravel occasionally, so I knew where Art and Paul were hiding. If only Emilio had known. Emilio, now recovered from his feasting, decided to check out the territory on the other side of the aquarium. He pulled himself from the rubble, and slowly crawled toward the middle of the tank, directly into Art Textile's ambush. As he passed over Art, the results were predictable. Art reached up and harpooned Emilio, and since he was directly above the anterior tip of Art's shell, the trick he had used on Paul didn't work. I now believe that Paul must not have been successful in all his attempts at stinging the conus bandanus, because the sting from Art stopped Emilio dead in his tracks. With Emilio withdrawn into his shell, it was hard to tell if Art stung him more than once, but I suspect that he did. In any case, Art made no attempt at eating the bandanus, be he did crawl from his hiding place and make a victory lap around the aquarium before burying himself once again.

I watched Emilio carefully over the next two days, and it was a familiar pattern that I was observing. Like the others before him, and even his own victims, Emilio would retract his siphon, then extend it. At first he could extend his foot slightly, but after the first day he only seemed capable of moving his siphon. I checked on him a couple of times each day to see if he was still alive, but like all of the other "Cone Wars" victims, on the third day after being stung he was dead.

And so ends this volume of the Cone Wars. Salute all the warriors, but hail Conus Textile, Champion of the Cone Wars.

EPILOGUE
========

The Cone Wars "experiment" was hardly scientific, but it was educational for me, and I hope others enjoyed it, too. I learned several cone and cowry survival strategies, as well as getting a glimpse of the hunting methods that a few different species employ.

The conus textiles are certainly survivors, with a compulsion (and the equipment) to eliminate any potential competitors. The conus canonicus sur- vived mostly by staying out of the way of the bad guys, as did one of the conus omarias. All but one of the original cypraea cauricas survived by using a variety of strategies, and then of course there is Helmut...

I am leaving Samoa for the the next couple of months to spend the summer in the U.S., and I'm removing all the inhabitants of the aquarium except for a few. I am keeping Art, Paul, Ross, and Gary, and a few cowries for them to chase. Helmut will be returned to the spot on reef that he inhabited before his last address change, since I figure he earned his freedom. I really don't have the heart to freeze him, and besides, the lynx population would likely benefit from his (her?) contribution to the gene pool.

I'll be off Conch-L after Friday, 21 May, and will be unable to access this e-mail address, but may be reached at:

mdbarclay@yahoo.com

I'll return to Samoa the first week of August.

Thanks for all your comments, and best to all you Conch-L'ers! Cheers,

Don (Barclay)