Field of Science

Conus jaspideus or Conasprella jaspidea, Take Your Pick

Live Conasprella jaspidea, copyright Anne DuPont.

Cone shells are one of the classic varieties of tropical sea shells, perhaps only rivalled in their familiarity with the general public by cowries and conches. Over 800 species of the family Conidae have been described from around the world. The specimen above represents one of these species, going by the name of Conasprella jaspidea or Conus jaspideus. The alternatives reflect the conflict between those who would treat all cone shells as belonging to a single genus Conus, or those who would divide them between multiple genera (Conasprella jaspidea is the name used for this species by Puillandre et al., 2014). One 2009 classification went so far as to divide the cone shells between 89 genera in five separate families, which does seem perhaps a little excessive. Among other features, Conasprella species differ from Conus sensu stricto in having a higher spire to the shell.

The type specimen of Conasprella jaspidea, copyright MHNG.

Conasprella jaspidea is found in coastal sections of the western Atlantic between Florida and the area of Rio de Janeiro. It is a medium-sized shell, reaching about three centimetres in length. Whorls of the spire are marked by distinct shoulders, and the body whorl is ornamented by spiral cords. The colour of the shell is white, orange or brown with darker brownish or violet spots. Shells of C. jaspidea may vary in texture from granular to smooth. These variants were initially recognised as distinct species or subspecies Conus jaspideus and C. verrucosus but, not only can both forms be found intermixed within a single population, the difference between them may be simply a question of the degree of wear a shell has been exposed to (Santos Gomes 2011).

Like other cone shells, Conasprella jaspidea is venomous with the radula bearing a single functional tooth modified into a short of hypodermic needle for injecting venom. Species of Conasprella are vermivorous (that is, they feed on worms). Feeding by a live individual of C. jaspidea was observed in an aquarium by Santos Gomes (2011). Photographs therein show the individual ingesting a polychaete worm that was perhaps not too much shorter in length than the cone shell itself; the process of feeding (from the initial strike with the radula to completion of ingestion) took about eighteen minutes from start to finish.


Puillandre, N., T. F. Duda, C. Meyer, B.M. Olivera & P. Bouchet. 2014. One, four or 100 genera? A new classification of the cone snails. Journal of Molluscan Studies 81: 1–23.

Santos Gomes, R. dos. 2011. Conus jaspideus (Mollusca: Neogastropoda: Conoidea) on the Brazilian coast. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 91 (2): 531–538.

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