S. Lefevre/Univ. of Oslo
A whiff of danger makes hunchbacked conchs so jumpy they actually jump.
“A very peculiar movement for a snail,” says Sjannie Lefevre of the University of Oslo in Norway.
Admittedly, the motion of Gibberulus gibberulus gibbosus is less boing-boing and more kerflop-kerflop. But each push-off can send the small, striped conchs in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef several centimeters above the sea bottom and almost a body length (3 or 4 centimeters) forward. They can keep at it too, jumping as many as 100 times in three to five minutes.
The sea snails save their jumping for conch emergencies, such as when they detect dissolved body odor from the deadly cone snail Conus marmoreus. Cone snails glide rather than jump. But if a cone snail gets close enough, it harpoons the conch with a long, venom-delivering proboscis that is as agile as an elephant’s trunk. Then it reels in the paralyzed