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Flamingo Tongue

>> Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Now that I am all well rested from my "staycation" I have lots of pictures and science-y tidbits to share. This amazing photo my hubby took above is of a flamingo tongue (Cyphoma gibbosum). See the brightly colored shell on the sea fan? It's that. Now you will get to learn a little about this amazing creature.

This beautiful snail lives its life hanging around on gorgonian type corals. These commonly are sea fans and sea whips. They are found in shallow waters to depths of about 10m (30 ft.). Its range is the southern Atlantic and Caribbean. This is the area between North Carolina and Brazil.

Family Origins:
This colorful little guy is a gastropod. That means he is a mollusk along with some of our friends the squids, snails, and slugs. They are part of the family that is commonly known as the cowries.

Fun Facts:

  • The colors on the shell are not actually on the shell. It is actually a layer of tissue outside of the shell. Once the snail dies, it is really just a plain white or light peach colored shell.
  • They cannot survive without coral reefs. They live on and feed off gorgonians (octocorals). Both the flamingo tongue and the coral they feed on are invertebrates.
  • Like all gastropods, the flamingo tongue eats with its foot. The thing any snail crawls along the surface with is known as it's foot. They eat as they are moving!
  • They have very few predators because, as the brightly colored shell indicates, they are distasteful.
  • The maximum size is only 1.5 inches.
  • They are diurnal (sleep at night) just like us! Well, most of us. :D
  • Flamingo tongues are getting more rare as visitors to the Caribbean mistakenly snatch them up for their colorful shells. Now that you all know they aren't really colorful, you won't take them, will you?
I hope you have enjoyed this introduction to yet another animal found here in St. Thomas.

Don't forget: The Donor's Choose Challenge is going on 'til the end of October. Make a difference in school children's lives.


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