Why You Really Shouldn’t Pick Up Sea Shells In Phuket

Why You Really Shouldn’t Pick Up Sea Shells In Phuket

Grabbing A Pretty Phuket Diving Souvenir Could Land You In Jail Or Dead…

If you want a souvenir from your scuba diving experience in Phuket then just taking photos is the only option you should be thinking about, picking up a seashell could land you in jail and if that shell is a cone shell then you could end up in more trouble – lots more trouble

Cone Shells Are Sneaky

Being snails, unsurprisingly cone shells don’t chase down their prey but sneak up on them when they’re sleeping. They will bury themselves in the sand in the daytime and come out at night to hunt, this is when the nightmare begins.

When the acute chemo receptors detect a fish, the snail will slowly stalk to within strike range of it’s slumbering victim, extend it’s proboscis and fire a venom covered harpoon that instantly paralyses it’s prey. The formerly happily sleeping fish is immediately consumed, still slightly wriggling and wondering WTF just happened.

A few days later a grisly pile of bones and scales will be all that’s left of the unlucky little fella and just to add insult to injury, the harpoon that did the damage will be amongst the remains. The cheeky little calling card is a modified radula that the snail only uses once.

A Wetsuit And Gloves Will Protect Me?

Nah, they won’t. The larger species of cone shell (up to 22cm) are the ones we have to worry about, they can easily fire their harpoon through a wetsuit or glove. These larger species generally feed on fish which is a vertebrate so their venom has evolved to quickly immobilise vertebrates which if you didn’t already know is you. The sting can reach you from anywhere you choose to pick the snail up from, so just don’t.

Smart Venom

The complex toxins in the cone shell venom doesn’t just randomly run through the fishes (or shell collectors) body, it targets particular areas and muscles, bringing on paralysis and respiratory failure unfairly quickly.

Some cone shells have a pain killer in amongst the toxins that is a 1000 times stronger than morphine, very considerate in light of what the potential symptoms are: sweating, lethargy, weakness, headache – not so bad so far but it’s just warming up – then aphonia (so you can’t even ask for help), drooling, seizures, paralysis, hypotension, severe nausea, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and vomiting. All nicely topped off with complete cardiovascular and respiratory collapse.

Some species have more than one toxin, a milder venom for hunting and a defensive one just for you (aww that’s sweet) that is much stronger and capable of producing the above ridiculously excessive amount of reactions in your body.

At this stage if you still feel like you may pick up a shell then you need a psych evaluation, actually no, it doesn’t need a professional to know that you’re a lunatic or just really, really stupid.

Treatment

Just try to relax and wait for the antivenom to arrive – oh that’s right there isn’t one… nonetheless you should immediately head to hospital. In the mean time:

Immerse the affected area in water as hot as tolerable (not over 60c)
Immobilise the limb
Pressure bandage
Try to stay calm (yeah right)
Pray to your deity of choice

The people around will have to keep a close eye on you and be ready to give CPR and rescue breaths, that is if they’re willing to battle through the fluids projecting from every orifice. Once you’ve made it hospital then you should be fine under professional medical care, unless it was a geography cone shell that nailed you, if so you have only a 30% chance of survival. Not great news for the victim but at least your friends will have something fun to bet on, every cloud…

Recognising The Dangerous Ones

Not easy, there’s many pattern and colour variants on the individual species, identifying them should be left to the experts.It would also have been difficult for the victims of stings to accurately I:D the snail, so just don’t pick up a shell of any kind. Below are some of the more dangerous species identified by the Phuket Seashell Museum:

Conus textile

Conus textile
Phuket: Yes
Size: Up to 10cm

Conus aulicus

Conus aulicus
Phuket: Yes
Size: Up to 16cm
Dangerous: Yes

Conus striatus

Conus striatus
Phuket: Yes
Size: 12cm
Dangerous: Very

Conus geographus

Conus geographus
Phuket: Yes
Size: Up to 16cm
Dangerous: We have a winner ladies and gentleman, the most toxic of a very toxic family. A fair number of human deaths have been attributed to this menacing mollusc. You could go into cardiovascular failure just looking at the photo

Potential Life Saver?

The way that cone shell venom can target particular organs or muscles is of great interest to science. If scientists can work out how it’s done then cancer treatment can potentially be delivered only where it’s required without damaging other organs.

As well as being 1000 times stronger that morphine the painkillers that cone shells produce target different receptors and are likely to be nowhere near as addictive.

The incredible variety and complexity in cone shell venom is believed to have many possible medicinal benefits. They’re definitely an animal we want around

The Law

Even an empty shell has a role to play in the environment, hermit crabs have a particular liking for cone shells as a home and the shell will eventually breakdown to form part of the white sandy beaches that we all enjoy in Phuket. For those reasons and others there is a maximum jail sentence of 5 years or a fine of up to THB 100,000 for anyone caught removing marine life dead or alive from Thai waters.

Look But Don’t Touch

Quite obviously a cone shell is an animal to be admired from a distance (doesn’t have to be a great distance, it’s not as if they can jump at you) and not touched. They’re not a common sighting because of their nocturnal habits but they’re around, you’re more likely to see a cone shell moving around the reef with a hermit crab inside rather than it’s former deadly owner. They inhabit shallow coral reefs in all tropical waters so there’s no getting away from them, stings are very, very rare so please don’t pick up marine life of any kind and you’ll be just fine.

Come and find/avoid your deadly maniacal mollusc with Local Dive Thailand!

Posted in Rare & Peculiar Critters on .

Popular Services

Equipment Rental Local Dive Thailand

Equipment Rental

If you are joining us on one of our Phuket scuba diving day trip tours, and intend to scuba dive, you will most certainly need some equipment. If you have or are traveling with your own gear, that's great, bring it with you on the day on the tour, we will take care of it for you and bring it to the boat at no extra charge. If you do not own your own equipment, and are not doing one of our PADI scuba diving courses or Discover Scuba Dive, you will need to hire your equipment. The equipment hire cost is not included in the price of the day trip, simply because that way we don't need to charge people who have their own equipment or partial sets for something they won't use. If you ne [...]

More About This Page
Similan Island Dive Site Turtle Rock

Turtle Rock

Most of the Similan Island liveaboards steer away from night dives in favour of sunset dives that are usually far better but on the first night on the boat you may well jump in at Turtle Rock for your one and only night dive of the trip. The shallow, protected bay usually has very easy conditions to allow plenty of time to search all the nooks and crannies in safety. The dive site got its name from the turtle shaped rock that sits out of the water on the west side of the bay, however it's not uncommon to find sleeping hawksbill turtles underneath the boulders. The shallow bay has plenty of healthy coral to explore and this is the area you should stick to. If you go a bit too far west [...]

More About This Page

Daily Schedules

M/V Kepsub Schedule

Jobs @ Local Dive Thailand

Local Dive Thailand is one of Phuket's fatest growing & most vibrant scuba diving operations, we are always looking for quality staff to join us, so feel free to have a look at our jobs listing page.

Job Listings

Contact LDT

Local Guides, Local Knowledge, Local Experiences

Don't trust your diving to amateurs or freshly minted dive guides, dive with local experienced experts from Local Dive Thailand. Our Scuba Diving Phuket Tours will take you to see the rarest of the rare critters, you will be amazed by the macro life our guides can find, in the secret places only they know. To put it in perspective, if you were going to climb Mount Everest you would certainly hire a local sherpa to lead the way & keep you safe. Diving is similar because there is absolutely no substitute for local experience & local knowledge, Local Dive Thailand's guides are Phuket's Sherpa's of the Andaman Sea!

More About L.D.T

Scuba Diving Tours Phuket, Phi Phi & Thailand

When talking about Scuba Diving Phuket Tours, you should believe the hype, this season we have had Whale Sharks grace us on our regular easy to reach dive sites almost monthly and on a good day you can add Sea Horses, Sea Moths, Snake Eels, Frog Fish & Octopus to what you can see on any given dive, plus much more. If we are heading to Phi Phi Island for the day, you can possibly see Hawksbill Sea Turtles and Black Tip Reef Sharks, also don't forget the King Cruiser, 84 meters of sleeping wreck and the most amazing artificial reef and nursery for fish and nudibranch. Local Dive Thailand day trip tours to these locations are not to be missed when you are scuba diving in Phuket, get in touch with us and book an awesome day of diving.

Book A Day Trip Tour

Related News From Local Dive Thailand

See why we are the regions leading scuba diving tour company, stay up to date & watch out for news & special offers!

Great Deals On Similan Island Liveaboards Thailand Diving Discounts & Special Offers

Great Deals On Thailands Similan Island Liveaboards! 3 Days/3 Nights From THB 13,500 (US$ 410)

With such a wide range of boats and cabin types there must be a Manta Queen boat that will fit you perfectly. The Manta Queen fleet have been a trusted operator in the Similan Islands National Park for many years so if you're looking for an early season bargain get in touch with us now. Visit world famous dive sites such as Richelieu Rock and Koh Bon and look for majestic manta rays, whale sharks and a whole lot more in the crystal clear waters surrounding the stunning Similan Islands National Park. Manta Queen 1 14th - 18th October 19th - 23rd October 25th - 29th October 30th October - 03rd November 04th - 08th November 09th - 13th November Similan Islands-Koh Bon-Richelieu [...]

Read The Full Story
False Clown Anemone Fish (Amphiprion ocellaris) At Anemone Reef Rare & Peculiar Critters

Clownfish And Their Dirty Secrets

Finding clownfish/anemonefish in Phuket is not a difficult task for our diving guides, we have four different species of the 28 known that we regularly find, all colourful and all have the quirky clownfish attitude that makes them a favourite with divers but behind the cute colours are some very strange facts. I'm sure you're aware that they have a symbiotic relationship with anemone's but this doesn't come as easy to the clownfish as you might think. The fish don't hatch with an immunity to the stinging cells of the anemone, when they find their chosen host the juvenile clownfish have to touch it gently with various parts of their body until they eventually get covered with a layer o [...]

Read The Full Story
Help Phuket's Coral Reefs The Archives

Eco Friendly Diving Phuket – How You Can Help

Helping preserve our Phuket reefs starts before you even get on our diving boats or even leave your home countries for your well earned holiday. A few simple and inexpensive steps can really make a difference, the "everybody else is doing it" line really doesn't cut it as an excuse anymore. Below are a few suggestions that can reduce your impact on our reefs. Oxybenzone (also known as benzophenone-3) is a common ingredient in many sunblocks and has detrimental affect on coral reef health. Environmentally friendly products aren't easy to find in Phuket resorts so consider bringing your own. What You Can Do: Purchase environmentally friendly sunblocks such as - True Natural, Su [...]

Read The Full Story

Local Dive Thailand Office In Phuket

Find Us On Google Maps