Chicomurex cf venustulus (Rehder & Wilson, 1975)

Chicomurex venustulus is rare in the Marshalls, at least at scuba depths. We have not seen a living specimen, but have found empty shells, usually with a hold drilled in the spire, in rubble piles rather deep on the seaward reef dropoff. It is probably not rare at the right depth and habitat. On one occasion, we found a pile of 17 empty shells, and on another dive, 7 empty shells in a single pile. It appears that something out there collects these shells, punches a small hole in the spire, and eats out the animal. Although we have not caught anyone in the act, it is well known that some octopus will prey upon snails, drilling small holes in the shell and injecting a venom that paralyzes or kills the snail, allowing the octopus to pull it out the aperture. The photos below show a couple of the empty but still fresh shells found on one dive. The shells are highly variable in color. They resemble figures we have seen of Chicomurex venustulus, but ours are differs in having smoother intervarical sculpturing and a shorter, more squat shape.

Created 1 October 2010

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