Conus gloriamaris Chemnitz, 1777
Mollusk - Gastropod
Glory of the Sea
The Glory of the Sea or Conus gloriamaris is venomous having a specialized radula system which is used for spearing intended prey with a poisoned barb. Its radular tooth is characterized by a serrated shaft and a prominent basal barb. It prefers to hunt other mollusks. Its bite is very dangerous to man thus caution is advised when dealing with living specimens.
This cone shell is moderately rare but widely distributed through the western Pacific. It is “moderately rare” because although widely distributed, populations appear to be very local and of limited size. Once a colony is depleted, collectors must move to another colony if one can be found. At present, most specimens are found in the Philippines, Solomons and in New Guinea. Here in the Philippines, it is found in Bohol, Cebu, Corregidor and Negros. It inhabits deep water.
For such a rare and famous shell, it is distinctly ugly having subdued patterns and covered with heavy patternless growth marks over the body whorl. Its lip is chipped and heavily filed, and there are often bad and unhealed breaks on the body whorl and later whorls of the spire.
This shell was first described in 1977 and was known from only a couple of dozen specimens for the next hundred years – thus considered very rare. In addition, false tales and high auction prices made this shell famous. In 1856, it was erroneously published that the great Danish cone collector Chris Hwars had in 1792 purchased one at an auction and immediately crushed it underfoot to make the one he already possessed all the more valuable. A second false tale was published in connection with the discovery of 2 specimens in Bohol, Philippines by Hugh Cuming in 1837. A few years later it was reported that an immense earthquake had swallowed up the living gonads of this new extinct shell, which added to the desirability and sale price of the Glory of the Sea. As late as 1962 a specimen was sold for $2,000 but the use of scuba gear and the discovery of several hundred specimens in British Solomon Islands within the last few years has dethroned this queen of shells to the status of “moderately common”.
Since this shell inhabits deep water, it can be collected with the use of dredge, trawl and tow-nets. Scuba diving is also one way of collecting the Glory of the Sea cones.