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A nassarius snail that sports a neon coat

By Leonard Ho - Posted Feb 22, 2016 09:00 AM
This is one blinged-out snail! Some Nassarius margaritifer from the Red Sea host colonies of a biofluorescent Cytaeis hydroid on their shells, resulting in snails that look like they are covered in green fiber-optic lights.
A nassarius snail that sports a neon coat

The fabulous Nassarius margaritifer

Nassarius margaritifer is a common, wide-ranging Nassarius sp. snail (one many reefkeepers have kept as part of their cleaner crews).  But when they're decked out in neon hydroids, they're something else!

The mouths of the symbiotic hydroids are packed full of GFP (Green Fluorescent Protein), a protein commonly found in corals, which are responsible for the green fluorescence when bombarded with blue light.  It is hypothesized that the glow attracts prey to the hydroids and maybe the snail as well, although the exact benefits of this fascinating symbiosis are not well understood.  Perhaps the hydroids also serve as prickly defenses for the snail as well.

The strange partnership between snail and hydroid is described in PLOS ONE.

How cool would it be to have a tank full of these guys working your sandbed?

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Author: Leonard Ho
Location: Southern California

I'm a passionate aquarist of over 30 years, a coral reef lover, and the blog editor for Advanced Aquarist. While aquarium gadgets interest me, it's really livestock (especially fish), artistry of aquariums, and "method behind the madness" processes that captivate my attention.

Website: http://www.advancedaquarist.com.

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