learn only 3 things about them ...
conch is a lively snail that hops instead of creeping
along the surface.
of its features are adaptations to this hopping lifestyle:
flared shell, large eyes.
Many are edible.
Sadly, conch snails
are better known to many Singaporeans as seafood. But once you've
seen a living Conch, you would hardly bear to eat it. With its large
eyes and lively habits (for a snail), it seems cruel to snack on it.
Where seen? These snails are encountered
on both our Northern and Southern shores. Some, however, are no longer
as commonly seen as in the past. Conch snails, even the larger ones,
are hard to spot as they are usually half buried and their shells
are well camouflaged.
Jumping Snails! A conch does not
just slowly creep along. Instead, it can move in jerks. While most
other snails have a broad operculum to seal the shell opening, members
of the Conch family have a narrow operculum. Instead of a broad flat
foot, a conch has a narrow foot that is strong and muscular. The conch
digs its claw-like operculum into the sand and pushes against it to
'hop' forwards like a pole-vaulter.
snail: Like the spoiler on a sports car, the flared shell
keeps the conch down as it hops around and helps it from being rolled
about in the currents. If it does get overturned, it uses its operculum
to right itself. The inner surface of the flared shell is usually
highly glossy and pearly, and in the Spider conch, in shades of pink
and orange. The upper side of the shell may have different patterns
but in living snails these are usually obscured by mud and camouflaging
algae and encrusting animals.
While most snails have eyes at the base of their tentacles, a conch
has large eyes on stalks. While most snail eyes generally only detect
light, it is believed that the eyes of the conch snail may actually
produce an image! So the Conch is truly a sports version of a snail.
There is a U-shaped notch (called the stromboid notch) at the tip
of the shell through which one of the two eye stalks usually sticks
out. The other eye sticks out beneath the lip of the shell.
do they eat? Many conch snails are scavengers, eating decaying
plants and animals. Others eat tiny algae. The flared shell also protects
the proboscis as the animal sweeps the bottom for titbits.
feats by Conch feet: One species of the Conch family, Strombus
maculatus, can leap more than 1m! Another, Terebellum terebellum,
is shaped like a bullet can can move rapidly for up to 3m by flapping
its fleshy foot.
Human uses: Conch snails are edible
and eaten everywhere they are found. In Singapore, Gong-gong
were once plentiful. The Gong-gong is the most popularly eaten conch,
fried with chilli or as fritters. You can sometimes still see them
served at hawker centres. The Black-lipped conch
and Spider conch were also eaten. The larger
Spider conch is also collected and killed for its beautifully shaped
and coloured shell.
Status and threats: The Black-lipped
conch and Spider conch are listed as
'Vulnerable' on the Red List of threatened animals of Singapore, while
the Dark Diana conch (Strombus atratum)
is listed as 'Critically endangered'.
The Spider conch and Black-lipped conch are no longer as common as
in the past. They are threatened by habitat degradation, over-collection
for food and as souvenirs. Hopefully, our Conch snails don't suffer
the same fate as the Queen Conch (Strombus gigas) of the Americas
which is now listed on CITES II due to over-harvesting.
Tanah Merah, Dec 11
young Spider conch that hasn't developed
spines on its shell yet.
Pulau Jong, Jul 07
The shell is a coiled beneath the flared lip.
Laying fine beige egg string.
Tanah Merah, Jul
Laying bright orange egg string.
Terumbu Hantu, Apr 12
snails on Singapore shores
Strombidae recorded for Singapore
Tan Siong Kiat and Henrietta P. M. Woo, 2010 Preliminary Checklist
of The Molluscs of Singapore.
in red are those listed among the threatened
animals of Singapore from Davison, G.W. H. and P. K. L. Ng
and Ho Hua Chew, 2008. The Singapore Red Data Book: Threatened
plants and animals of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore). 285
urceus=Strombus urceus (Black-lipped conch)
^Dolomena dilatata=Strombus dilatatus
^Dolomena variabilis=Strombus variabilis
aratrum (Dark Diana conch) (CR:
^Labiostrombus epidromis=Strombus epidromis
Lambis chiragra=^Harpago chiragra
(Spider conch) (VU: Vulnerable)
Strombus marginatus robustus
Strombus turturella (Gong gong)=Strombus
Strombus vittatus apicatus
Tibia fusus (^now in Family Rostellariidae)
- Tan Siong
Kiat and Henrietta P. M. Woo, 2010 Preliminary
Checklist of The Molluscs of Singapore (pdf), Raffles
Museum of Biodiversity Research, National University of Singapore.
- Chim, C.
K., M. L. Neo & K. S. Loh, 2009. The status in Singapore of
Strombus (Dolomena) marginatus sowerbyorum Visser & Man In’t Veld,
2005 (Mollusca: Gastropoda: Strombidae). Nature in Singapore,
2: 379–384. [PDF,
- Tan, K. S.
& L. M. Chou, 2000. A
Guide to the Common Seashells of Singapore. Singapore
Science Centre. 160 pp.
- Wee Y.C.
and Peter K. L. Ng. 1994. A First Look at Biodiversity in Singapore.
National Council on the Environment. 163pp.
G.W. H. and P. K. L. Ng and Ho Hua Chew, 2008. The Singapore
Red Data Book: Threatened plants and animals of Singapore.
Nature Society (Singapore). 285 pp.
- Abbott, R.
Tucker, 1991. Seashells
of South East Asia.
Graham Brash, Singapore. 145 pp.
- Edward E.
Ruppert, Richard S. Fox, Robert D. Barnes. 2004.Invertebrate
Brooks/Cole of Thomson Learning Inc., 7th Edition. pp. 963 (About