Hot on a Snail Trail

Date June 27, 2011

Divers at Pulau Hantu over the weekend, came back from their 2nd dive thrilled and excited to share about their encounter with a slow kind.
What’s the big deal with this giant snail? Well, it’s a very cool snail that we don’t get to see very often. According to the Singapore Red Data Book, this beautiful snail is restricted to our part of the world, in particular, Singapore and Peninsular Malaysia. We found this one along the silty seabed, some 12m below the water’s surface. As it trawled along the sea bed, it had its long siphon extended and waving in front of it. It is carnivorous, and eats smaller snails living beneath the sand! One of our divers observed the Noble volute slowing down to wave its siphon as a small cardinal fish swam around it. It may seem strange to imagine a large and slow snail catching a fast swimming fish, but this critter can do it!

Noble volutes can grow up 20cm. This individual was about 15cm. The thick heavy shell can be orange, yellow or beige with red or brown zig-zag patterns. A wide variety of patterns can be seen, although in some, the pattern may be obscured by encrusting growths. The fleshy body is black with bright orange or yellow spots. An interesting fact is that empty shells of dead noble volutes are quickly taken over by large hermit crabs. So humans aren’t the only ones that have a desire for these beautiful snails as food and curio items. The Noble volute is listed as ‘Vulnerable’ on the Red List of threatened animals of Singapore due to habitat loss. It was previously abundant in Singapore but is now considered vulnerable due to habitat degradation and overcollection for food and for its attractive shell. Like other creatures of the intertidal zone, they are affected by human activities such as reclamation and pollution. (Source)

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