The Strombidae

Though lacking the striking colour ornamentation exhibited by such families as the Volutidae and Cypraeidae, the Stroinbidae are well worthy of examination for their beautiful and unique architecture. Who has not at some time held and gazed with wonder at the family's most well known member, the Giant (or Queen) Conch of the Carribean? (Strombus gigas). As we examine this wonderful traveller, who has made his way, with the help of man, to such remote spots as the prairies of the Middle West end the parlours of Bermondsey, we see indeed a shell of great beauty.

The Strombs inhabit the Carribean area in great numbers, and there exhibit, as well as their characteristic wing lips, many beautiful colour forms such as the brown and orange-reds of the Fighting Stromb (Strombus pugilis); the genotype of the family, or the orange, chestnut and lilac of the Cockwing Conch (Strombus costatus).

However, we must not think that the West Indian theatre has a monopoly of the Strombs. They are almost world wide in their distribution in tropical and subtropical ’.-raters., The Pacific, particularly the East Indian- Austral ian waters, yield a large number of species. The Partridge Wing Stromb (Strombus canariura) with its brightly painted shell, the Diana's Ear, (Strombus auris-dianae) with its finely sculptured zing, the Silver Lip (Strombus lentigenosus) with its only slightly dilated, but extremely thickened outer lip and beautiful mouth colouring, and the Hunchback Stromb (Strombus gibberulus) with its peculiar distorted appearance, are typical examples from the area.

In the Indo-Pacific we meet another branch of this great family, the Spider or Scorpion Shells. These start life as shells somewhat resembling the typical conus, however, as they grow older the outer lip enlarges and dilates, but instead of the wing-like shape, the shell forms a, number of finger-like processes. The Gouty Spider Shell (Lambis chiragra) and the smooth Spider Shell (Lambis Iambis) are typical in form and display some of the beautiful colouring met with in this sub-group.

Another small but interesting sub-group are the Beak Shells of the Indo-Pacific and China Seas, typified by Tibia martinii. In these the spire is long and graceful, the outer lip only slightly dilated and shallowly notched, the posterior and anterior canals being well developed.

The Little Auger shells of the same habitat (genotype Terebellum subulatuin) are smooth sub-cylindrical with a long narrow aperture and a thin undilated outer lip. In life, however, the animal displays many Strombidian characteristics - good sight, the ability to throw itself by a lunging action, and the usual gargantuan appetite.

What else of this strange family? They may yield pearls as does Strombus gigas, or again as is the case with Strombus gigas, the flesh may be eaten, though one is not usually told that it is a carrion feeder until one has enjoyed a good meal made from its large body, Then again Strombus raninns, in its early life, mimics the poisonous cone shells, thereby, it is thought, keeping many of its foes at a respectful distance. In adult specimens this form is lost and the characteristic wing lip appears.

One cannot close the Strombidae without a few words about two close relations. The Ostrich Foot Shells (Struthiolarla) of Hew Zealand and Australia have a handsome spire and an almost square mouth, due to outer lip dilation and deformation, Lastly, the Pelican Foot Shells, represented in the British Isles by Aporrhais pes-pelicani a truly delightful little shell with slender spire and an extremely dilated and thickened outer lip with short finger-like processes, reminiscent of the Spider Shells - an exotic stranger in the midst of our rather sombre molluscan fauna and a fitting specimen with which to close this short survey.

L. S. Atkins