Hopkins Marine Station Student Paper

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Title: High-pressure venom ejection by piscivorous cone snails
Student Author(s): Tan, Elyn C.
Faculty Advisor(s): Gilly, William
Pages: 30
Location: Final papers Biology 175H
Date: June 2002
Abstract: Similar to other members of its genus, Conus striatus has a highly evolved venom apparatus that serves to inject paralyzing venom into its prey through a hollow, tubular radular tooth. Although much research is currently being conducted on the properties of the venom itself, little investigation has been done to elucidate the biomechanics behind the snail’s ability to inject its venom. Studies were carried out with individual radular teeth that defined the pressure-flow characteristics in order to estimate the pressure used by a snail to eject venom during prey capture. Pressure and flow were directly proportional over the range of investigated pressures (up to 4 cm Hg) and flow rates (up to 2 µl s-1). Behavioral observations of prey capture were carried out with C. catus, a closely related species that employs similar toxins. Video data revealed the approximate duration of venom injection to be about 100 ms. The duration of venom injection by C. striatus is probably similar, and the volume of ejected venom in this species can be 20 µl or more based on ‘milking’ trials. Data suggest that the pressure necessary to carry out such an injection must range from 2-4 atm.