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Phylum Mollusca > Class Gastropoda
Conch snails
Family Strombidae
updated Sep 12
if you learn only 3 things about them ...
The conch is a lively snail that hops instead of creeping along the surface.
Many 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.

Turbo-charged 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.

What 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.

Amazing 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.

Hopping along
Tanah Merah, Dec 11


A 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 10


Laying bright orange egg string.
Terumbu Hantu, Apr 12

Conch snails on Singapore shores

Gong-gong or Pearl conch

Family Strombidae recorded for Singapore
from 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 pp.
^from WORMS

  Family Strombidae
  ^Canarium urceus=Strombus urceus (Black-lipped conch) (VU: Vulnerable)

^Dolomena dilatata=Strombus dilatatus
^Dolomena variabilis=Strombus variabilis


^Euprotomus aratrum=Strombus aratrum
(Dark Diana conch) (CR: Critically endangered)

^Labiostrombus epidromis=Strombus epidromis

Lambis chiragra=^Harpago chiragra
Lambis lambis
(Spider conch) (VU: Vulnerable)

Strombus marginatus robustus
(Margined conch)
Strombus turturella
(Gong gong)=Strombus canarium
Strombus vittatus apicatus

Tibia fusus
(^now in Family Rostellariidae)

Links

References

  • 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 Int Veld, 2005 (Mollusca: Gastropoda: Strombidae). Nature in Singapore, 2: 379384. [PDF, 633 KB]
  • 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.
  • 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 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 Zoology Brooks/Cole of Thomson Learning Inc., 7th Edition. pp. 963 (About strombid eyes)
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