Cone Shell and Conotoxins


or centuries members of the Conidae family have been collected for their unique and intricately designed shells. Only during the last few decades have Cone shells become an exciting area for scientific research.

Cone shells are marine snails and are found in reef environments throughout the world. They prey upon other marine organisms, immobilising them with unique venoms. There have been 30 recorded cases of human envenomation by fish-eating cone shells, in some cases fatal. Upon investigation it was found that the toxins in cone shell venoms possess pharmacological qualities that make them valuable tools in medical research.

Members of the Conidae family do not predate upon humans but will sting if disturbed. It is best to avoid contact with the cone shells completely, and collection of live specimens requires a permit.
If stung by a cone shell, obtain medical attention immediately (making note of a description of the cone shell if possible). If medical attention is unavailable and the victim becomes unconscious, observe their breathing constantly and apply assisted and artificial respiration when required until assistance can be found. In this way it may be possible to keep the victim alive while the body metabolises the conotoxins.
Conus textile on the prowl
Conus textile on the prowl
Click on image above for larger display

HMS Beagle's "Web Pick of the Day"    Encarta Weblink, 100x40  

Sofcom Pick     sci.web

Hall Of Fame

  • HMS Beagle's "Web Pick of the Day", October 12 (1998)
  • Sofcom Pick of the Net Award
  • Nominated for IndNet Best Contents Award (June,1998)
  • SciWeb - "Site of the Week", January 18 (1999)
  • Encarta Encyclopedia 1999 - referenced web link, January (1999)
  • Science 2000 - Net Link, SITE VISIT: "When Snails Attack" Science 288: 2279d, June (2000)
  • rewarding TOP 10 awards to web sites appearing simultaneuously in the top 10 positions of all top-rated search engines, December (2001)
  • Scientific American 2005 , (April). "A Toxin Against Pain" by Gary Stix. This web page cited as "A prodigious resource for all things cone snail".
Charmaine Griffiths (Placement student, University of Bath, UK) and
Dr. Bruce Livett (Dept. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Univ. of Melbourne, Australia)

Do you have any positive comments or/and questions ? Please send to Dr. Bruce Livett

This page, its contents and style, are the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the views, policies or opinions of the University of Melbourne. Copyright 1998 Dynamix@WORK! All rights reserved. Last updated on August 10, 2005.