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Conus anemone (Family Conidae)

Anemone Cone Shell


The Anemone Cone Shell has a southern temperate Australian distribution. It ranges from central NSW, around southern shores including Vic, Tas, and SA, to the Houtman Abrolhos, near Geraldton on the mid-WA coast (NSW, VIC, TAS, SA, WA).


The Anemone Cone Shell is distinctly conical, with short, concave sides and a very short pointed spire of varying lengths. It grows to a length of 40-50mm and a diameter of 25mm. The whorls are numerous. Some specimens are high and have a distinct hump called a shoulder. There are many spiral striations on the body whorl, larger at the front, and grooved the base. The aperture is long, almost the length of the last whorl. The outer lip is thin. The operculum is very small, lengthened and horny.

The colouration of the Anemone Cone Shell is extremely variable, having a cream, brown or bluish base colour marked with streaks, blotches or bands of brown, orange, pink or purple. Pure white examples are sometimes found and appear to be more common near Ocean Beach, Portsea, Vic. Living cone shells are covered with a thin yellow protective covering called a periostracum. The living animal is red in colour.

Ecology/Way of Life:

The Anemone Cone Shell occurs under and among stones, in crevices, or in pools, at the lowest tide levels and below down to 15 metres. Cones are active hunters. Their radula are reduced to a few poison-loaded, harpoon-shaped teeth that can be used to immobilise prey. Some fish-hunting tropical species are toxic to humans. All cones, including the Anemone Cone should be handled with care. Females lay large communal egg masses under boulders and rocks at low tide levels and below in spring and early summer. A short stalk attaches the capsules to the rocky substrate. Shepherd & Thomas (p.896) give a very good description of the form and development of these capsules, of which only a few hatch as crawling juveniles.

Interaction with Humans/Threats:

The Anemone Cone Shell is very common across its range, so does not appear to be threatened by human activity.

Other Comments:

Conus anemone, Lamarck, 1810. Because of its variability in form and colouration many names have been applied to this species. It has also been called Floraconus anemone, and Floraconus singletoni, Cotton, 1945. The latter name was applied to the pure white form.

The word Conus comes from the Greek word konos, meaning pine-cone. A cone is a solid figure with a circular (or other curved) plane base, that tapers to a point. Anemone comes from the Greek word anemos meaning the wind, while anemone means wind-flower.

Further Reading:

Bennett, I. (1987). W. J. Dakin's classic study: Australian Seashores: a guide to the temperate shores for the beach-lover, the naturalist, the shore-fisherman and the student. p.294, Angus & Robertson.

Davey, K. (1998) A Photographic Guide to Seashore Life of Australia. p.116, New Holland Press, Sydney.

Edgar, G.J. (1997). Australian Marine Life: the plants and animals of temperate waters. p.263, Reed.

Jansen, P. (2000), Seashells of South-East Australia. p.64, Capricornia Publications.

Macpherson, J.H. & Gabriel, C.J. (1962). Marine Molluscs of Victoria. p. 235, Melbourne University Press. (as Floraconus anemone).

Marine Research Group of Victoria (1984). Coastal Invertebrates of Victoria: An atlas of selected species. p.66, Museum of Victoria.

Shepherd, S.A. & Thomas, I.M. (1989). Marine Invertebrates of Southern Australia. Pt. II. p.607 & 896, South Australian Govt. Printing.

Wells, F.E. & Bryce, C.W. (1988). Seashells of Western Australia. p.128, Western Australian Museum.

Wilson, B.R. & Gillett, K. (1979). A Field Guide to Australian Shells: Prosobranch Gastropods. p.248, Reed.


Text, map & photograph by Keith Davey.

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