Retractable spots

posted by Casey Dunn / on September 7th, 2009 / in molluscs


The marine snail Cyphoma gibbosum browses on the polyps of soft corals (top). It appears to have a brightly spotted shell, but when disturbed the spots begin to move (middle) and then retract within the white shell, along with the rest of the animal (bottom). This is possible because the spots are not part of the shell at all. They are patterns on the thin mantle tissue that extends out of the shell opening and up around the snail’s back. Photos by Casey Dunn.