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Phylum Mollusca > Class Gastropoda > Family Volutidae
Baler volute
Melo melo
Family Volutidae
updated Oct 2016

if you learn only 3 things about it ...
It is very rarely seen!
It is carnivorous. Its prey include smaller snails living beneath the sand.
It is threatened by over-collection as food and for it shell.

Where seen? This magnificent large snail sometimes seen on our Northern shores and is more common on undisturbed shores. They are usually found on muddy bottoms, near mangroves and seagrasses. It is also called the Indian volute.

Features: 15-20cm. Large shell is beige to orange, sometimes with brown bands, others without any distinct markings. The shell is rather thin and quite fragile for such a large snail. The fleshy body is brown with white stripes, a large foot which is plain and pale on the underside. It has a pair of slender tentacles, a long siphon that sticks out of the notch at the front of the shell, and a long proboscis, both banded brown and white.

What does it eat? The snail is a predator and hunts other snails, moving about on the surface. Like other volutes, it uses its large foot to enclose the prey. It lays large egg capsules.

Human uses: It is collected for food even, sadly, on Singapore shores. Elsewhere, the empty shell is used elsewhere to
bail out water from 'sampans' (little boats used by fishermen), also to measure out sugar, salt and flour in local markets.

"Pearls" may form inside this snail when something enters the snail's shell and gets covered by shell material. The "pearl" is not lustrous as it contains no nacre, but are usually very round and can be as large as a golf ball. The colours of the "pearl" tend to fade over time so they are not considered precious gems.

Status and threats: The Baler volute is listed as 'Endangered' in the Red List of threatened animals of Singapore due to habitat loss. Also threatened by indiscriminate fishing with nets. It is also eaten. Wildfilms had an encounter with a collector who took one from Changi to eat. The 1994 Red Data Book of Singapore states "Thought to have been exterminated from our water, but a recent isolated sighting confirms their continued presence".

Beting Bronok, Aug 05


This one at Changi was taken away
by a collector to be eaten.

Changi, Jul 07


The shell of a dead Baler snail is
quickly taken over by a hermit crab.

Pasir Ris, May 09

Empty shell.
Tanah Merah, Aug 09

Beting Bronok, Jun 06

Changi, Sep 10
Photo shared by Neo Mei Lin on her blog.

Baler volutes on Singapore shores

Photos of Baler volutes for free download from wildsingapore flickr

Distribution in Singapore on this wildsingapore flickr map


Baler snail eating a Noble volute!
Chek Jawa, Jun 10

Photo shared by Toh Chay Hoon on her blog.

A much smaller one riding on the
back of a bigger one. Prelude to mating?

Beting Bronok, Jun 10

Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal, Jun 15

Photo shared by Heng Pei Yan on facebook.


'Face' of the Baler snail!
Changi, May 11

Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on his blog.

Changi, Jun 09

Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on flickr.


Changi, Aug 12

Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on flickr.

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.
  • Tan, K. S. & L. M. Chou, 2000. A Guide to the Common Seashells of Singapore. Singapore Science Centre. 160 pp.
  • Ng, P. K. L. & Y. C. Wee, 1994. The Singapore Red Data Book: Threatened Plants and Animals of Singapore. The Nature Society (Singapore), Singapore. 343 pp.
  • 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.
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