Seashell collectors, snorkelers and scuba divers do not understand the risk while touching or collecting few marine animals on shore or in shallow waters.

Generally, people think that snails are slow-moving creatures or a tasty food and they do not harm or have strength to hurt human.

But, one family of snails have the speed and deadliness of a tricky fighter-the cone snails.

Cone snails are cone-shaped with beautiful colored outer shell. In Andaman and Nicobar Islands 51 species of cone snails are reported till now.  All of them are venomous and few are deadly.

Maximum population of these snails occurs from the shore to shallow inter-tidal region.

Cone snails have a venom gland and hollow needle like tooth to hunt its food.  It shoots the venom filled tooth aiming its prey that is similar to a handgun mechanism. As soon as the needle hits the prey it becomes immobile.

Some species have also killed many amateur sea shell collectors and divers who have carelessly handled these snails.

The venom is a neuro-toxin and affects the nervous system within seconds. Symptoms shows strong pain followed by paralysis and respiratory and cardiac failure.

Species like Conus geographus that are present in Andaman and Nicobar waters could kill a human in 5 minutes. Till now there is no anti-venom.

So, children in this summer vacation, when you play on sea shores avoid picking cone snails. Sea shell collectors and divers be careful in collecting this beautiful cone snails. Pick up the snails only by the broad end. The ancestors of local fisher folk use to advise their generations to shake-well a sea shell when you pick so, it cannot quickly hurt you due to instant stress.

- Dr. J. Benjamin Franklin, Scientist, NIOT, Dollygunj, Port Blair 

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