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Phylum Mollusca > Class Gastropoda
Volutes
Family Volutidae
updated Oct 2016
if you learn only 3 things about them ...
They are among the large snails you might see on our shores.
They are carnivores. Their prey include smaller snails living beneath the sand!
Many volutes are threatened by over-collection as food and for their shells.

Although some are highly prized for their large, glossy, patterned shells, living volutes are even more beautiful. Their bodies are boldly marked with colourful stripes or spots.

Where seen? The Noble volute (Cymbiola nobilis) is regularly sighted on some of our Northern and Southern shores, especially at night when they are more active. The Baler shell (Melo melo) is also sometimes seen on our Northern shores.

Features: To about 20cm. In some, the shells are large, heavy and glossy, often with beautiful patterns. As an adaptation to burrowing in sand, seeking buried prey, the foot is large and muscular, and the siphon long, the tip sticking out of the sand while the snail is buried.

What do they eat? All members of the Family Volutidae are carnivorous. Their prey include molluscs and echinoderms. A volute seeks out buried bivalves with its siphon and encloses the prey in its huge foot then waits. When the exhausted bivalve opens up to breathe (which can take several days!), the volute sticks its proboscis in and rasps the flesh of its prey with its radula. Volutes may hunt their prey from the surface, but often burrow to eat their prey under the sand.

Volute babies: In members of the Famliy Volutidae, the male fertilises the female internally. There is no free-swimming larval stage and crawling juvenile snails emerge from the egg. As a result, volutes have a restricted range and local populations can be wiped out by over-collection. Noble volutes lay translucent egg capsules that contain many eggs. But only one or a few develop, the survivor having eaten the others. The eggs hatch and undergo metamorphosis within the egg capsules, emerging as tiny crawling snails.

Role in the habitat: Many of the Noble volute shells contain a hermit crab instead of the living snail. Even after it dies, the snails shell continues to provide shelter! The hermit crabs need the shell more than we do so we should not collect these shells even if they are empty.

Human uses: Called 'kilah' in Malay, the Noble volute is edible. It is also 'often collected for its attractive shell. The Baler shell was also eaten and its empty shell used by fishermen to scoop water out of their boats, as well as to scoop sugar, salt and flour in markets.

Status and threats: The Noble volute (Cymbiola nobilis) is listed as 'Vulnerable' and Baler shell (Melo melo) as 'Endangered' on the Red List of threatened animals of Singapore due to habitat loss. The Noble volute was previously abundant in Singapore but is now considered vulnerable due to habitat degradation and overcollection for food and for its attractive shell.

Burrowing with siphon sticking out.
Chek Jawa, Jun 05


Baler snail eating a Noble volute!
Chek Jawa, Jun 10
Photo shared by Toh Chay Hoon on her blog.


Noble volute laying egg capsules
Pulau Semakau, Mar 07


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

Beting Bronok, Jun 10

Volutes on Singapore shores


Family Volutidae 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.

  Family Volutidae
  Cymbiola nobilis (Noble volute) (VU: Vulnerable)

Melo broderipii

Melo melo
(Baler volute) (EN: Endangered)

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.
  • 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.
  • 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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